ORG policy update/2018-w07

This is ORG's Policy Update for the week beginning 12/02/2018.

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ORG’s work

  • ORG are fundraising to recruit more permanent members of our legal team. Join ORG today to help out!
  • ORG is running a petition against the Government’s misguided proposals threatening fines for internet companies who do not rapidly censor extremist material shared on their platforms. Sign the petition here!
  • ORG have launched an open call for ideas to develop a tool for consumers to enjoy their stronger rights under GDPR. This is a joint project with Projects by IF, funded through a grant from the Information Commissioner Office.

Planned local group events:

  • Join ORG staff Mike Morel and Alex Haydock at ORG London on 19 February for a discussion on the modern threats to free speech online.
  • Hear ORG's Legal Director Myles Jackman update ORG Norwich about ORG's current and future legal activities on 19 February

Official meetings

  • Mike Morel gave a presentation to ORG Oxford on free speech and extremism.
  • Jim Killock gave an interview on BBC Radio 5 Live about the Government's proposed algorithm for detecting terrorist propaganda videos.
  • Slavka Bielikova gave a presentation during the Westminster Insight Forum event on copyright and rights management.
  • Matthew Rice met with Patrick Harvie, MSP for Glasgow and co-convener of the Scottish Green Party, to discuss electronic voting trials in Scotland.
  • Jim Killock attended a seminar held by The Electoral Commission on proposed changes to Welsh voting, including online voting, with minister Alun Davies speaking.
  • Jim Killock met with Michael Veale to discuss his research.

UK Parliament

Parliament has been in recess this week, and will reopen on Tuesday 20 February.

Data Protection Bill

ORG are still tracking the progress of the Data Protection Bill, which had its first reading in the House of Commons at the end of January, and is awaiting a second Commons reading before Committee Stage can begin. While no date has yet been announced for the Second Reading, ORG are expecting this to be during the second week after the Parliamentary recess is over.

The Bill still contains the controversial "immigration exemption", which ORG have campaigned against during earlier stages. For more information, see previous policy updates.

ORG are planning future outreach campaigns targeting MPs and MEPs, intended to highlight our concerns with some of the provisions of the Bill.

Other national developments

Amber Rudd announces Government tool to identify extremist material

This week, Home Secretary Amber Rudd announced that the Government has developed an algorithmic tool capable of identifying terrorist propaganda content with a high success rate. The Home Office claims that the tool can recognise 94% of IS propaganda with 99.99% accuracy. According to Engadget, the Home Office intend to make the tool available for all internet platforms, and they are particularly interested in "smaller sites such as Vimeo and pCloud, which have seen an increase in IS propaganda".

Such tools can have a role to play in identifying unwanted material, but there are some important caveats to what these tools are doing, with implications about how they are used, particularly around accountability.

Additionally, ORG has concerns that the real world impact of all this activity may not be as great as is being claimed. Greater transparency around what material is being removed is necessary to establish whether takedowns are proportional, and to ensure accountability.

The results of the Government's’ campaign to remove extremist material may be to push them towards more private or censor-proof platforms, which may impact the ability of the authorities to surveil criminals and to remove material in the future.

The ORG Blog has a post that raises a number of concerns and questions about this system.

West Yorkshire police begin trialing mobile fingerprint technology

This week, the Government confirmed that police in West Yorkshire would begin trialing technology that allowed frontline officers to use a smartphone app in conjunction with a handheld fingerprint scanner to connect with identity databases (IDENT1 and IABS) via the Biometric Services Gateway.

According to the Government:

"As well as identifying a person of interest who may be withholding their name, the technology enables officers to rapidly identify someone experiencing a medical emergency and make contact with their next of kin. Early examples of the new system in action include a firearms unit, who detained a driver after a short pursuit and were able to identify him as a disqualified driver, despite him giving false details."

Liberty raised concerns about the technology in a blog post on their site, noting:

"This scheme is part of a pattern of the police using radical privacy-invading technology without proper public consultation or meaningful parliamentary oversight. Much like the facial recognition technology that is increasingly being deployed by police forces, it is being presented to us after the event and with little fanfare and is being made available to more and more officers across the country."

Government websites found delivering cryptocurrency mining malware to users

This week, a number of Government websites were found to be delivering a malicious cryptocurrency mining script to users. This was along with thousands of other sites which also make use of the third-party Browsealoud tool for users with accesibility needs. The Browsealoud plugin had been compromised to deliver the mining script to users of any site which made use of the screen reading tool, even if the users in question were not actively using the screen reading feature.

The cryptocurrency mining malware involved a javascript tool from CoinHive, which allows website owners to use the processing resources of users that visit their webpages to mine the Monero cryptocurrency. In this case, however, the tool had been illegally served to users of Government sites through the compromise of the Browsealoud tool.

Simple technical mitigations such as Content Security Policy and Subresource Integrity have existed for many years, and can be used by website owners to effectively protect their users from being put at risk if any third-party tools on the site, like Browsealoud, are compromised.

This breach of Government services comes one week after the publication of the National Cyber Security Centre's Active Cyber Defence report, which highlighted the success of their "Web Check" programme for securing Government websites.

ORG media coverage

See ORG Press Coverage for full details.

2018-02-13-Engadget-UK government has its own AI for detecting extremist videos
Author: Rachel England
Summary: Jim Killock quoted in a story about Amber Rudd's claim that the Government have developed an algorithmic tool to detect terrorist propaganda videos.
Topics: Internet censorship
2018-02-13-BBC Radio 5 Live-5 Live Drive
Author: BBC Radio 5 Live
Summary: Jim Killock interviewed on Radio 5 Live about Amber Rudd's claim that the Government have developed an algorithmic tool to detect terrorist propaganda videos.
Topics: Internet censorship
2018-02-14-The Register-Despite the headlines, Rudd's online terror takedown tool is only part of the solution
Author: Rebecca Hill
Summary: Jim Killock quoted in a story about Amber Rudd's claim that the Government have developed an algorithmic tool to detect terrorist propaganda videos.
Topics: Internet censorship

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