ORG policy update/2017-w17

This is ORG's Policy Update for the week beginning 24/04/2017.

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

ORG’s work

  • ORG has been working on the response to the consultation run by the Law Commission on 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. Sign the petition!
  • ORG launched a campaign asking the Home Office to clarify their position on the Investigatory Powers Act. Sign onto our letter to the Secretary of State and Shadow Ministers!
  • ORG launched an action to email MEPs about EU plans for websites to carry out mandatory upload filtering against a database of copyright works. MEPs are debating the proposals in several committees. Email your MEP today!

Planned local group events:

  • Join ORG Cambridge on Tuesday 2 May for our monthly meetup to discuss the current state of digital rights, what we've done in the past month and what we are planning to do in the upcoming month.
  • Come and organise the ORG Brighton group on Wednesday 3 May. These meetings are for us to come together and review what we have been up to in the previous month and plan our upcoming events over some nice food and drink.
  • What is the government doing with the new nationality data collected from every child in state school? To answer this question and more ORG Brighton are teaming up with DefendDigitalMe for an event on Tuesday 9 May all about the National Pupil Database.



The Digital Economy Bill finished its passage in both Houses of Parliament and received Royal Assent.

The amendments for the Digital Economy Bill made in the House of Lords were considered by the House of Commons. The Government proposed a handful of amendments that replaced some of the Lords’ amendments. These did not include any substantive changes.

The list of new amendments can be found here.

Following the Commons’ debate, Lords briefly discussed new changes and approved them. The debates did not touch upon age verification, online copyright infringement or data sharing, and the Digital Economy Act still contains several flawed concepts:

  • insufficient privacy safeguards for age verification

Part 3 and the Codes of Practice for age verification do not clearly divide the responsibilities of several regulators and an administrator of the appeals processes. The Government decided not to legislate on users being able to choose the tool to verify their age. It will be up to websites to choose which age-verification tools they want to use.

With only the market, and not legislation, regulating the most widely used AV tools, new risks of tracking people’s sexual preferences will be created, and possibilities of data leaks will abound.

  • poorly defined provisions on censorship

DEAct does not limit what can be blocked if age verification is not used on an adult website. Without any limits imposed on the levels of blocking, the Government can easily block entirely legal sites.

  • no amendment for online copyright infringement

The Government decided not to include thresholds of seriousness for the definition of online copyright infringement offences. This makes any intentional infringement a criminal matter. This definition is not proportionate and makes the offence unforeseeable.

  • partial improvements to data sharing in government

The Government improved the data sharing part of the Bill by making the Codes of Practice statutory and by narrowing down which public authorities can access data. However, the Act still enables bulk sharing of civil registration data and does not provide for reviews for all the powers under Part 5.

ORG will be considering our options, including judicial review.

Question on cybercrime

Cat Smith MP asked the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, how many businesses completed completed the free online training course on protection against cyber threats and online fraud since March 2016.

Matthew Hancock MP responded that 88,520 users participated in ‘Responsible for Information’ online course between September 2014 and February 2017.

Question on telephone tapping

Lord Eames asked the Government, what guidelines are in place for the Security Services relating to monitoring of personal phone calls by MPs and members of the House of Lords, and how often they are reviewed.

Baroness Williams of Trafford responded that the Government set out their position on the Wilson Doctrine in a written ministerial statement on 4 November 2015.

The Investigatory Powers Act includes protections of the Wilson Doctrine. The Act provides that an application for a targeted warrant to intercept or to examine the communications of Parliamentarians must be approved by the Secretary of State, a Judicial Commissioner and the Prime Minister.

Question on Internet offences against children

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch asked the Government,

  • what assessment they have made of of whether the Internet Watch Foundation has the necessary legal power and authority to remove non-pornographic child sexual abuse images on UK and non-UK hosted sites;
  • what actions UK police have taken to restrict access to, or remove non-pornographic child sexual abuse material on UK hosted and non-UK hosted sites.

Baroness Williams of Trafford responded that the IWF has no legal powers but it is recognised UK authority in issuing notices to remove criminal child sexual abuse content. They address reports of UK hosted sites with such material.

If the website is hosted outside the UK, it is reported by the National Crime Agency to the host country via Interpol channels.

Question on social media

Tom Watson MP asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, whether the Department is enrolled on any trusted flagger programmes with social media companies.

Ben Wallace MP responded that the Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit regularly refers online terrorist and extremist content that breaches social media companies terms and conditions for removal.

The National Crime Agency Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command also have trusted status with YouTube and other social media providers.

Other national developments

World Press Freedom Index

The World Press Freedom Index for 2017 was published by Reporters Without Borders this week. The UK has dropped two places on the index and occupies the 40th place now.

This is a continuing trend for the UK. In fours years, the UK has dropped ten places.

Reporters Without Borders cited the Investigatory Powers Act and proposals for a new Espionage Act as reasons for the drop. The IPAct broadened surveillance powers of intelligence agencies and law enforcement but failed to provide sufficient safeguards for journalists to protect their sources.

In a similar direction, the Espionage Act proposed by the Law Commission could see journalists jailed for 14 years if they as little as handle classified information obtained from a whistleblower.

Lauri Love appeal

The High Court granted Lauri Love permission to appeal against the ruling from last September that allowed his extradition to the US.

Love, who has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, is wanted by the US for allegedly hacking websites and computer systems of the US government, military and private sector as part of online protests following the suicide of Aaron Swartz.

Love’s defence argued that the American prison system is not suitable for managing his health conditions, including severe depression and eczema.

The High Court’s ruling also granted the human rights organisation Liberty permission to intervene in the appeal.

A hearing date has not been scheduled yet.


New geoblocking rules

The European Parliament’s Internal Market Committee approved new geoblocking rules. The rules could force music streaming sites like Spotify, ebook sellers and subscription-based online games to sell to all parts of the EU where they hold copyright.

The report could benefits consumers who would be able to enjoy cross-border access to the services they purchased. The rules do not cover services offering audio-visual content.

Polish MEP Róża von Thun und Hohenstein authored the report. 29 MEPs voted in favour of the report and three MEPs opposed it.

The new rules received a strong opposition from retailers who are worried these rules would have a negative impact on their businesses. Smaller ebook sellers raised concerns that higher online payment charges for cross-border transactions and costs to make more secure websites for pan-EU sales would hurt them and could lead to increase in prices for their services.

The draft report will be next voted on in the European Parliament.

International developments

Net neutrality developments in Canada and US

The Canadian federal telecom regulator ruled last week that Internet service providers should treat data traffic equally to foster consumer choice, innovation and the free exchange of ideas.

The ruling by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) was based on complaints against Quebec-based provider Videotron and their unlimited music streaming service. The provider allowed its customers to stream music from third-party apps without it counting against their data plans.

Several hearings on the practice of differential pricing followed the complaints. Most of the Canada’s biggest providers were in favour of differential pricing.

CRTC set up a new framework for evaluating differential pricing schemes that prevents providers from employing practices similar to those implemented by Videotron.

Contrary to the Canadian developments the US Federal Communications Commission wants to roll back rules protecting net neutrality. Most recently the Commission eliminated price caps that make internet access more affordable for thousands of small businesses.

The removal of the price caps will financially favour broadband giants like AT&T and Verizon, while increasing costs for consumers.

ORG media coverage

See ORG Press Coverage for full details.

2017-04-21-The Inquirer-ORG is gonna let Theresa May hold a snap election, but first it wants clarity on snooping powers
Author: Dave Neal
Summary: Jim Killock quoted on the UK Government needing to rewrite the IPAct in the light of the CJEU judgment.
2017-04-22-Scotsman-Jim Killock: Put privacy first and ID system can be a boon
Author: Jim Killock
Summary: Op-ed on the scrapped plans to use the Scottish NHS Register to help collect income tax.
2017-04-26-The Register-UK drops in World Press Freedom Index following surveillance and anti-espionage threats
Author: Alexander J. Martin
Summary: Jim Killock quoted on extensive surveillance powers threatening investigative journalism and freedom of expression.
2017-04-26-The Guardian-'Downward spiral': UK slips to 40th place in press freedom rankings
Author: Damian Gayle
Summary: Jim Killock quoted on extensive surveillance powers threatening investigative journalism and freedom of expression.
2017-04-27-Wired-UK falls further down the World Press Freedom Index
Author: Alexandra Simon-Lewis
Summary: Jim Killock quoted on extensive surveillance powers threatening investigative journalism and freedom of expression.
2017-04-27-BBC News-Police to use facial recognition at Champions League final
Author: Chris Baraniuk
Summary: Jim Killock quoted on police needing to explain how they will use and store facial recognition images collected at football matches.
2017-04-28-The Register-Just delete the internet – pr0n-blocking legislation receives Royal Assent
Author: Alexander J Martin
Summary: Jim Killock quoted on passing of the Digital Economy Act.
2017-04-28-The Inquirer-Parliament has handed personal privacy to pornography pedlars
Author: Dave Neal
Summary: Jim Killock quoted on passing of the Digital Economy Act.

ORG Contact Details

Staff page

This page was last edited on 28 April 2017, at 14:20.

Content is available under Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License unless otherwise noted.