ORG policy update/2016-w45

This is ORG's Policy Update for the week beginning 07/11/2016.

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ORG's work

  • We’ve been working on some more amendments regarding the Codes of Practice for Data Sharing in the DEBill.
  • ORG’s been getting ready for the last stages of the IPBill.

Local groups planned events:

  • CryptoParties are a great way for anyone to learn how to install and use tools to help secure their online communications. Join ORG North East on 12 November to learn why we need to use these tools. All are welcome.
  • Come to the first of our series of talks given by members of the ORG Hampshire community. We'll be kicking off on 22 November with a session on Open Data what local datasets already exist, what's wrong with them and what we can do to help.
  • Come along to ORG Birmingham's free Mozilla Maker Party on 22 November to make illicit digital culture with artist Antonio Roberts and learn more about what you can do to achieve real, progressive changes in copyright.
  • ORG Aberdeen is organising a meeting on 24 November. Learn how you can help to protect your rights in a digital world. You do not need to be a tech wizard to attend.
  • Keep in touch with ORG and our campaigns on surveillance, privacy and free speech by joining our email list.

Official meetings

  • Myles Jackman and Jim Killock attended a meeting with BBFC (new age-verification regulator) this week to discuss certain aspects of age verification for porn websites.
  • ORG had a meeting with the Cabinet Office to further discuss the Data Sharing part of the DEBill.
  • Jim Killock attended a meeting with Matt Rogerson at the Guardian.
  • ORG took part in a privacy roundtable organised by Mishcon de Reya.
  • Jim Killock gave a talk on “How much surveillance is acceptable in democracy?” for Maidstone Skeptics.



Parliament has been on recess this week and the IPBill will be moving between the two Houses again on Tuesday 15 November.

Quick recap (as seen in the last week’s update):

During the Third Reading Lords surprisingly discussed an amendment proposed by Baroness Hollins for civil liability for unlawful interception. This amendment aims to respond to the Leveson Inquiry and regulate the press by awarding victims of unlawful interception a compensation. Baroness Hollins claimed that shortly before the Third Reading the government indicated they will oppose her amendment.

The amendment was pressed to a vote and the House of Lords defeated the government's position. The updated version of the IPBill going to the House of Commons the next day included the amendment. Find the briefing on Lords amendments to the House of Commons here.

The ping pong session in the House of Commons had the amendment voted on and the Government's majority pushed for it to not be part of the Bill.

Labour and SNP made it clear they will not be able to support the Bill if the Hollins' amendments does not stand part of the Bill. Since the discussion around the Leveson Inquiry amendment got quite heated, MPs did not have much time to spend discussing other changes made in the House of Lords.

The amendment was rejected in the House of Commons
“Because it would not be appropriate to make such provision in relation to claims under clause 8 while consideration is being given to commencing section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013.”
Earl Howe later stated that the amendments are trying to change the wrong piece of legislation.

The IPBill then moved back to the House of Lords on 2 November where it got its backing from the Lords again.

So far it looks like Labour MPs are not willing to give their approval to the Bill unless the Leveson amendments are part of it. Diane Abbott MP, the Shadow Home Secretary, said that
“The Tory Investigatory Powers Bill stands to breach some of our fundamental rights and will impinge upon proper journalism – we need to unite against it.”

Jim Killock shared the same concerns in this opinion piece for Newsweek.


There have been no developments for the DEBill this week due to Parliament being on recess. The Bill concluded its Public Bill Committee stage on 1 November. The next date for Report stage of the Bill has not been announced yet but it is likely to be in two-weeks time.

Some of them most worrying parts of the Bill relate to age verification for pornographic websites. An amendment regarding age verification was submitted by a cross bench group of MPs led by Claire Perry MP. The amendment is not support by the government at present.

The amendment seeks to require the blocking of access to pornographic material by Internet service providers. The age-verification regulator (BBFC) will be able to issue notices to ISPs to block access to non-complying porn publishers which will inevitably lead to a form of censorship.

Jim Killock explains in detail why these measures are neither effective nor proportionate.

There is a danger that Labour and Conservative MPs may come together to defeat the government and introduce a power to block websites since Labour had previously tabled a similar amendment. This could also create pressure on the government to concede similar powers in order to avoid a defeat.

Last week the Labour Shadow Minister Sarah Champion made a statement saying that children should be taught about pornography before they start accessing it. This would be a much more sensible approach to tackling children's online safety.

ORG has put together a list of amendments to improve the Codes of Practice and safeguards for Data Sharing (Part5). You can find them here.

You can find out about the issues in the DEBill from our videos:

Question on intellectual property

Catherine West asked the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy about his policy on the recognition of UK firms' trademarks and patents in the EU after Brexit takes place.

Jo Johnson MP responded that there is no EU institution granting patents and therefore they won't be affected by Brexit. Patents owned by UK businesses with effect in the UK will continue to be governed by national law.

On the other hand, the EU trademark is a unitary right. EU trademarks will still be available to UK business. Consultations are currently under way on how existing EU trademarks can continue to provide protection in the UK.

Question on digital technology

Margaret Ferrier asked the Minister for Cabinet Office, whether the government has appointed a UK Digital Champion to replace Martha Lane Fox.

Ben Gummer MP responded there nobody has been appointed a Digital Champion but the Government Digital Service has been strengthened with the appointment of its Director General of Digital, Kevin Cunnington. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has appointed Matthew Gouldas it Director General for Digital and Media and Liam Maxwell as the National Technology Adviser.

Triennial Review of the ICO

Matthew Hancock MP delivered a statement announcing that the Triennial Review of the ICO has been published.

Hancock said the Government have considered the Review's recommendations and agree that expansion of the role ICO has in the digital industry requires a step change in governance and leadership at the ICO. However, the Government will hold off reconstituting the ICO.

The top priority for the ICO is to ensure they are equipped to take forward the requirements of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) coming into force in May 2018. The Government believes that a single Information Commissioner is the best model for achieve its goal during a period of rapid organisational change.

Other national developments

ICO on WhatsApp

The Information Commissioner's Office gave more details into their investigation of WhatsApp and sharing of their customer information with Facebook. In conclusion, Elizabeth Denham, the Information Commissioner, said that users haven't been given enough information about what Facebook plans to do with their information. According to the ICO's investigations, WhatsApp hasn't got valid consent from users to share the information. She further pointed out that users should have ongoing control over how their information is used instead of a specific time control window.

Facebook have agreed to pause using data from UK WhatsApp users for advertisement or product improvement. Both Facebook and WhatsApp have been asked to sign an undertaking committing to better explaining to customers how their data will be used.

The ICO has tried to push for greater level of information and protection of consumers but Facebook and WhatsApp haven't agreed yet. The Office is ready to use available enforcement actions if Facebook will use the data without valid consent.

IPT asked whether surveilled by GCHQ

Human Rights Watch and six individuals filed a challenge with the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) demanding a confirmation from the Investigatory Powers Tribunal whether or not they were subject to surveillance by GCHQ. Their challenge also wants to determine whether surveillance was unlawful.

The new series of challenges follows the claims filed with the Tribunal in 2015. The IPT previously dismissed the claims of non-UK residing applicants. The UK residents, including Human Rights Watch, received a “no determination” finding failing to reveal whether they were subject to lawful surveillance.

School software spying on pupils

A report by the Big Brother Watch revealed that over two-thirds of schools installed software on school computers to spy on their pupils. The information came from responses to Freedom of Information requests.

School-used software allows the teacher to monitor screens of an entire class both in real time and historically. It also enables schools to record keystrokes on keyboards and to flag up inappropriate words. Monitoring systems such as Impero, AB Tutor and RM Education are capable of picking up on bad behaviour and signs of extremism and radicalisation.

Use of classroom management software by schools is possibly a response to the anti-extremism Prevent strategy. However, the official marketing for the three software products focuses on tackling the problems of cyber-bullying, sexting or self-harm.

It is apparent from the report that majority of schools did not issue “acceptable use” policies to be signed by pupils or their parents to acknowledge they are happy with computer surveillance. It is not clear whether schools have any policies or technological systems in place to protect pupil's personal data collected by the software. The use of classroom spyware could lead to normalisation of spying on children, especially when used in conjunction with CCTV and biometric systems.

International developments

Impact of Trump on US-UK intelligence sharing

It is very likely that the newly elected US president Donald Trump will be able to access information and exert high levels of influence on operations carried out by the GCHQ. GCHQ shares nearly all the data it collects with the NSA and is dependent on US technology for its key operations.

The Snowden leaks revealed how closely intertwined both organisations are. They are integrated to such an extent that it is difficult for Parliament to hold GCHQ to account. ORG’s report about Snowden leaks from 2015 questions what this arrangement means for the UK sovereignty.

It is not clear whether these powers and data will be safe under Trump’s control. Several of his campaign statements referred to defense of torture. Should US legalise torture, it would inevitably lead to ceasing the intelligence-sharing aspects of the UK and US's special relationship.

It appears surveillance oversight and governance need to be restructured to make it secure for the British public.

ORG media coverage

See ORG Press Coverage for full details.

2016-11-03-Newsweek-IP Bill is most extreme surveillance law ever passed in a democracy
Author: Jim Killock
Summary: Opinion piece by Jim Killock on the severity of surveillance powers in the Investigatory Powers Bill.
2016-11-03-BBC-Electronic voting review launches for trade union ballots

Summary: Jim Killock quoted on technology not being able to solve voter participation problems.

2016-11-04-Kit Guru-Open Rights Groups slams porn censorship proposal
Author: Jon Martindale
Summary: ORG quoted on disproportionate use of age verification for pornographic websites.
2016-11-04-Salem State LogFacebook scuppers car insurer’s plans to view drivers’ profiles
Author: Josh Alston
Summary: Jim Killock quoted on financial companies beginning to use social media data needing to engage in a public discussion about the ethics of these practices.
2016-11-04-Alphr-Digital Economy Bill could block porn sites that fail to age check
Author: Dale Walker
Summary: Jim Killock quoted on disproportionate use of age verification for pornographic websites.
2016-11-06-CRS Connection-Auto insurer proposes to check Facebook before setting premiums
Author: Arturo Norris
Summary: ORG mentioned in connection with criticism of Admiral's proposed use of Facebook data.
2016-11-6-The Observer-How nosey insurers use Facebook and your weekly shop to keep tabs on you
Author: Donna Ferguson
Summary: Jim Killock quoted on the dangers of social media account-based profiling by financial and insurance companies.
2016-11-09-Independent-How much snooping is too much?
Author: Felicity Hannah
Summary: Pam Cowburn quoted on problems with using non-financial data to determine financial decisions.
2016-11-09-Boing Boing-A madman has been given the keys to the surveillance state
Author: Cory Doctorow
Summary: ORG mention as one of the organisations fighting surveillance.
2016-11-09-Guide to ISP web filters and web blocking
Author: Matt Powell
Summary: ORG mentioned in connection with the project that allows to check if a site is filtered by ISPs.
2016-11-09-Stuff-Who should really be in control of our data?
Author: James Titcomb
Summary: ORG mentioned in connection with criticism of Admiral's proposed use of Facebook data.
2016-11-09-The Inquirer-A Trumped America makes for bad UK surveillance, warns Open Rights Group
Author: Dave Neal
Summary: Jim Killock quoted on massive implications of the US election for the British public due to both countries' intelligence agencies being so closely integrated.
2016-11-09-The Register-Trump's torture support could mean the end of GCHQ-NSA relationship
Author: Alexander J Martin
Summary: Jim Killock quoted on massive implications of the US election for the British public due to both countries' intelligence agencies being so closely integrated.
2016-11-10-Kit Guru-ORG concerned over GCHQ sovereignty under new U.S. president
Author: Jon Martindale
Summary: Jim Killock quoted on massive implications of the US election for the British public due to both countries' intelligence agencies being so closely integrated.

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