ORG policy update/2017-w08

This is ORG's Policy Update for the week beginning 20/02/2017.

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ORG’s work

  • ORG launched a petition against the Espionage Act. The threat of 14 years in prison for handling classified and secret documents could stop journalists and whistleblowers from exposing corruption and government wrongdoing - especially in the secret services. Sign the petition!

Planned local group events:

  • Come along to ORG Leeds privacy workshop on 27 February and learn how to protect yourself from mass surveillance and online crime.
  • Join ORG Manchester on 1 March to find out how children's data from schools, as well as new laws on student data, and all other administrative datasets, might be affected by the Digital Economy Bill.
  • Explore the issues surrounding data protection, surveillance and internet identity at the Still immersive theater piece on 1 March in Brighton.



The Digital Economy Bill had the first day of its Report stage on Wednesday.

Lords predominantly dealt with amendments regarding broadband speed and mobile contracts. Transcript of the session is available here.

Ars Technica wrote a short summary of the proceedings.

The Government published their response to one of the Select Committees’ reports on the DEBill. Lord Ashton addressed the report by the Committee on the Constitution. Among other issues, the Committee questioned whether the House of Lords would be able to scrutinise the provisions on online pornography due to lack of details on the face of the bill.

In the Government response, Lord Ashton merely stated that the Government are preparing a number of amendments for age verification.

Lords are likely to move onto issues relating to age verification and online copyright infringement in mid-March.

Consultation on IPAct draft codes of practice

The Home Office launched a public consultation on draft codes of practice for the Investigatory Powers Act. The consultation will run until 6 April.

The consultation is looking for contributions on the codes of practice regarding:

  • Interception of communications
  • Equipment interference
  • Bulk communications data acquisition
  • Bulk personal datasets
  • National security notices

Question on cybercrime

Lyn Brown MP asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what proportion of police (officers) work primarily on cybercrime cases.

Brandon Lewis MP responded that the Home Office collects data on the primary function of police officers. The data is available here.

Question on social networking

Chi Onwurah MP asked the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, what assessment the Department has made of how easy it is for people to move and re-use data held by social networking websites.

Matthew Hancock MP responded that the EU General Data Protection Regulation introduces a new right to portability which will allow individuals to have their personal data provided by social networking websites in a commonly used machine readable format.

Question on data protection

Louise Haigh asked the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, what discussions she has had with the relevant European Commissioner on an adequacy decision for the protection of data transferred between the EU and the UK.

Matthew Hancock MP responded that the Government aims to ensure that data flows between the UK and the EU are uninterrupted after Brexit. Hancock did not expand on his explanation since the Brexit negotiations have not started and he wants to avoid speculation.

Question on hacking of schools

John Mann MP asked the Secretary of State for Education, whether schools are required to inform the Department when their websites and servers are hacked.

Nick Gibb MP responded that the Department for Education provides guidance to schools on how to protect data. Schools are not required to inform the Department but if they suspect a breach or data loss, the incident should be reported to the Information Commissioner’s Office.

Question on electoral register

Caroline Lucas MP asked the Minister for the Cabinet Office, what discussions the Government has had with electoral management system suppliers to assess the viability of on online registration checking tool.

Chris Skidmore MP responded that an online registration checking tool is only one of the many options to be considered to prevent duplicate applications. Skidmore said that they had started a process to examine the scale of the problem.

Other national developments

LINX surveillance gag clause

It was reported that members of London Internet Exchange (LINX) were given less than two weeks' notice of a proposed change to its constitution allowing secret surveillance orders to be implemented without members’ knowledge.

LINX has nearly 800 members including some of the world’s biggest Internet and content providers. At an upcoming meeting, LINX members will be asked to approve a gag clause that will ban appointed directors from asking members to approve technical and security changes to enable surveillance.

In practice this will mean that appointed directors will be speaking on behalf of several hundred members who will not be able to raise their concerns and potentially challenge surveillance. The IPAct will allow for this through technical capability notices specifying requirements and obligations LINX members have to comply with, so intelligence agencies can carry out interception, hacking and data retention.

Code of practice for search engines

The Intellectual Property Office announced an agreement between search engines and creative industries to make it more difficult for consumers to find websites that link to or host copyright infringing content.

Google and Bing signed up to a voluntary code of practice that will make it harder for people to find infringing material on their search engines. They will be notified by rights holders of breaches of their copyright.

The agreement is part of a wider campaign to crackdown on online copyright infringement. Infringing websites can be blocked following a court order and they have been subject to the “follow the money” approach - brands are reducing their advertising on illegal websites. The initiative also launched a Get It Right From A Genuine Site campaign to educate consumers on legal ways they can access online content.

The IPO have not published the Code of Practice. Any restriction on material on the Internet could impact freedom of expression. It is crucial the Code of Practice is publicly available and scrutinised.

ORG has written to the Minister Jo Johnson MP and Google to ask when the code of practice will be publicly available.

New independent reviewer of terrorism legislation

The Home Secretary appointed a new Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation. Max Hill QC will replace David Anderson QC after six years in the post.

Max Hill will begin his tenure on 1 March.

Hill has been involved in prosecuting some high profile terrorism cases, including the 21/7 bombing plots in 2005 and that of two men from Birmingham who funded one of the suspects in Brussels and Paris terror attacks.


EU Copyright Reform

Plans introduced by the European Commission (Article 11) to offer special rights for digital media organisations in its Copyright Reform package are under attack in the Council.

The proposals aim to compensate European publishers for the re-use of small amounts of their content on platforms like Google and Facebook (creating a so-called link tax). Other stakeholders in the matter strongly opposed the Commission’s proposals.

Similar laws have already resulted in Google closing down Google News in Spain and caused issues for publishers in Germany.

A draft opinion from the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection published earlier this week also said that the Article 11 lacks sufficient justification.

The proposals also include provisions for an "upload filter". Article 13 would require online platforms to filter out copyright protected content before it can be uploaded to their websites.

Several EU countries have doubts about the proposals regarding Article 11 after lobbying from internet platforms, internet activists and European academics. Leading copyright scholars criticised the both Article 11 and Article 13 this week. In an open letter, they said

"Article 11 seeks to create an additional exclusive right for press publishers, even though press publishers already acquire exclusive rights from authors via contract. The additional right will deter communication of news, obstruct online licensing, and will negatively affect authors."

"Article 13 indirectly tries to amend the E-Commerce Directive (2000/31/EC) that arranges the liability of online intermediaries for user generated content into a shared responsibility of rights holders and service providers. The proposals will hinder digital innovation and users’ participation."

The letter signatories see the two articles as “fundamentally flawed”. In their opinion, they “do not serve the public interest”.

The rapporteur Therese Comodini Cachia will present a report including amendments to the Copyright Reform next month. A committee will vote on the added amendments. Following that, there will be a broader vote in the European Parliament.

The UK Intellectual Property Office ran an informal consultation asking for views on the Commission's proposals late last year. The results of the consultation have not been published yet.

ORG media coverage

See ORG Press Coverage for full details.

2017-02-18-Forbes-The Price Of Being A Whistleblower
Author: Karen Higginbottom
Summary: ORG mentioned in relation to the Espionage Act causing alarm.
2017-02-19-Al Jazeera- Britain attempts to brand journalists as spies
Author: Jim Killock
Summary: Jim Killock wrote an opinion piece on the Espionage Act.
2017-02-20-Lush-You are your data
Author:Kate Dancey-Downs
Summary: Jim Killock quoted on the issues related to surveillance and privacy in the post-Trump era at a Lush event.
2017-02-22-Cameras in classrooms: An invasion of privacy or the future of teaching?
Author: Oliver Smith
Summary: Jim Killock quoted on cameras at schools being an excessive measure changing the learning dynamic.

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