ORG policy update/2016-w41

This is ORG's Policy Update for the week beginning 10/10/2016.

If you are reading this online, you can also subscribe to the email version.

ORG's work

  • Jim Killock presented evidence to the Public Committee on the Digital Economy Bill outlining problems with online copyright offences, age verification for pornographic websites and data sharing.
  • ORG Aberdeen is organising a Cryptonoise meeting on 27 October. Learn how you can protect yourself online.
  • ORG Cambridge is organising their monthly meet up on 1 November to discuss the current state of digital rights, what they've done in the past month and what they are planning to do in the upcoming month.
  • ORG London is organising a meeting on 7 November on Digital Dystopias: Orwell’s 1984 and the Internet Age.
  • Tom Chiverton (Local Organiser for ORG Manchester) will be doing a talk at the Festival of Social Science on how technology can be used in communities and activism. The event will take place on 11 November in Manchester. You can find out morehere.



The Public Bill Committee for the Digital Economy Bill sat for the first time this week taking oral evidence. The executive director of ORG, Jim Killock, gave evidence to the Committee on 11 October regarding three parts of the Bill:

1. online copyright infringement offences

2. online age verification for pornographic websites

3. data sharing

These are the full transcripts of the first (1, 2) and second day of the Committee stage.

Heather Burns reported on Jim Killock being questioned by MPs in her blog.

Several witnesses criticised the Part 5 (Data Sharing) of the DEBill on the first day of its scrutiny. ORG together with the Big Brother Watch stressed the Bill does not reflect the open policy making conclusions they both were part of. BBW highlighted that Codes of Practice have not been published making it difficult to properly assess privacy safeguards of the Bill in its current wording.

The Information Commissioner's Office gave evidence on the second day of the Committee stage. Elizabeth Denham, the new information commissioner, reiterated points made by ORG and BBW and said that DEBill needs improvements. According to the ICO, privacy needs to be strengthened in the Bill and privacy safeguards need to be made consistent throughout all codes of practice.

The full list of written evidence submitted to the Committee can be found here. The Public Bill Committee is set to conclude by 27 October and the next sittings will take place on 18, 20, 25 and 27 October.

BBFC to be the new age verification regulator

The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) has been announced to be the new regulator for online age verification for pornographic materials. The BBFC has been regulating physical media content so far and is due to move onto online pornographic content under the DEBill.

The BBFC is a trade body that was set up to offer advise to businesses to comply with the regulation. They lack experience in securing privacy and providing safeguards. The BBFC will require a significant support to deal with the privacy side of age verification.

So far, the systems proposed to facilitate age verification lack basic security and anonymity safeguards and the Bill does not contain further specification for minimal requirements for the age verification systems. Security expert Alec Muffett attended the Adult Network Provider meeting on age verification systems. Here is his write up of issues with the proposed systems.


The IPBill reached the Report stage in the House of Lords this week and will continue on 17 October. This is the full transcript of the first day of Report stage.

Lords discussed proposed government amendments regarding legal professional privilege and journalistic sources and were agreed on.

The debate revolved around creation of a Civil Liberties Board with a lot of voiced disapprovals from Lords across the House. The amendment, as put forward by Lord Paddick, would introduce the Board as an independent, bipartisan agency within the executive branch. The proposal was criticised for the lack of security clearance requirement for the board members and for taking powers away from the Intelligence and Security Committee. Paddick decided to withdraw his amendment.

Baroness Hollins brought forward an amendment for civil liability for certain unlawful interceptions following the Leveson Inquiry. Despite the Government’s suggestions to Baroness Hollins to withdraw the amendment, Labour and Lib Dem Lords offered their support and made it possible for victims of hacking undertaken by third parties to seek compensation. The Government’s position was defeated by 282:180.

Despite the improved level of scrutiny given to the Bill by Lords, the IPBill still lacks provisions that would make it fit for purpose and provide privacy safeguards. It has been reported this week that Labour Lords will abstain on the Bill. This piece by Mike Harris outlines implications of such inaction by the Labour Party.

The Third Reading of the Bill in the House of Lords will take place on 25 October.

Question on IPBill

Jenny Jones, Baroness of Mouselcoomb, asked Earl Howe a question regarding provisions on trade unions in the IPBill. Baroness enquired what plans they have to strengthen provisions to increase the protection of data related to trade unions and political activities.

Earl Howe responded that the Government already strengthened the provisions by accepting the Labour amendment adding protections for trade unions and by putting the Wilson doctrine in the Bill.

Question on data protection

Tom Watson MP asked the Cabinet Office, what their assessment of the implications for the Government’s policies on data protection of the findings of the NAO report (Protecting information across government) is.

Ben Gummer MP responded that the Government has requirements on Information Assurance mandatory for departments and they have started to implement the recommendations in the review.

The Government is already bringing together nine separate information security teams into just two. They have appointed the Government's first ever Chief Security Officer. Additionally, the National Cyber Security Centre will be advising departments on cyber security later this autumn.

Ministerial statement on CERT transfer

The Cabinet Office announced that the transfer of the Computer Emergency Response Team, UK (CERT-UK) functions and staff to the National Cyber Security Centre has now completed. CERT-UK stopped operating and will be closed.

CPS guidance on trolls

The Crown Prosecution Service published new guidelines on online crimes to help police identify them. The guidelines relate to cases where criminal offences occurred by sending of a communication via social media and they consolidate prosecution with offline crimes.

The guidelines also apply to the re-sending of communications.

The CPS said underage sexting between consenting children in a relationship should not be prosecuted and should focus instead on exploitation and bullying.

The CPS has launched a hate crime consultation that will run until 9 January 2017.

Question on extradition of Lauri Love

David Burrowes MP asked the Prime Minister a question regarding the extradition of Lauri Love. Burrowes enquired why the forum bar was not introduced in Love's case when it was introduced in a very similar case with Garry McKinnon.

Theresa May MP responded that her introducing the forum bar in the McKinnon's case was right at the time. She stressed that legal position was subsequently changed so it now a matter for courts to decide whether there was a human rights case for an individual not to be extradited. The decision is now with the Home Secretary.

Other national developments

IMSI catchers confirmed to be used by police

Wide-spread ownership of IMSI catchers by British police was confirmed this week. Bristol Cable, an independent media co-operative, obtained unredacted minutes of a meeting with a subheading titled “Covert Communications Data Capture (CCDC)”.

The “CCDC” acronym has been appearing on billing documents from several constabularies but it was not known what the acronym stands for. The revealed code names shows that many police forces in the UK have invested in covert communications surveillance technology. The reports show that West Mercia, Warwickshire, West Midlands, Staffordshire, South Yorkshire, Avon and Somerset police all purchased IMSI grabbers.

The use of IMSI catchers has never been confirmed before by British police.

Facebook revenge porn case

A revenge pornography case involving a 14-year old suing Facebook over naked images being published and re-published on the website, is set to have further implications on how social media deal with revenge porn and explicit images.

The victim claims Facebook is responsible for the publication of a naked picture on a “shame page”. Facebook's arguments say they always took the picture down when they were notified and should not be hold responsible for the publications that were not reported to them, according to a European directive. The directive is supposedly providing Facebook with protection from having to monitor a vast amount of online material.

Facebook's attempt to stop the claim was rejected by a high court judge and the case will most likely be heard in 2017. It has been reported more victims of revenge pornography have been seeking advice about whether they could file for legal action.

ORG media coverage

See ORG Press Coverage for full details.

2016-10-07-Vice-Protesters Are Holding a 'Squirting Water Fight' to Combat a Worrying New Internet Bill
Author: Frankie Mullin
Summary: Myles Jackman and ORG mentioned in connection to a porn-industry protest taking place in Parliament Square.
2016-10-11-The Inquirer-Open Rights Group sets out anti-Digital Economy Bill stall
Author: Dave Neal
Summary: ORG quoted on the criticism to the DEBill.

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