ORG policy update/2018-w18

This is ORG's Policy Update for the two week period beginning 30/04/2018.

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ORG’s work

  • Javier Ruiz and Myles Jackman appeared before the House of Lords Communications Committee to give evidence in response to an open enquiry around possible methods of regulating internet platforms. The archived live stream can be viewed here.
  • Matthew Rice delivered a presentation at St. Andrews University on the question: “Do we need the Third Sector for Debates about Technology and Ethics?”. A video of the presentation can be seen here.
  • ORG are participating in City University's summer placement scheme, and are taking on two full-time students from June 1.

Official meetings

  • Javier Ruiz appeared on AlJazeera to discuss the demise of Cambridge Analytica.
  • Jim Killock attended a meeting with Google in San Francisco.
  • Jim Killock attended a meeting with Wikimedia in San Francisco.
  • Jim Killock attended a meeting with the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco.
  • ORG Staff held a call with Projects by IF to discuss building a tool to help people take more control of their data.

UK Parliament

Data Protection Bill

The Data Protection Bill continues its way through the House of Commons next week, with the Bill's remaining stages announced to be on 9 May.

The opposition amendment for the Immigration Exemption has support from the Labour, Lib Dem, SNP and Green parties. The Government has not tabled any amendments related to the Immigration Exemption and the Bill is likely to be passed with the exemption. ORG and the3million have asked their supporters to email their MPs and explain their concerns with the Exemption.

ORG and the3million have previously issued a pre-action protocol letter notifying the Government that we are ready to challenge the Exemption in courts if it is passed. If this is the case on 9 May, we will be launching the action soon after.

The Government currently hasn't conceded on Article 80(2), and suggest that a review is needed before they will consider implementing the power.

A rebel amendment was also tabled by Conservative back-bench MPs, and which also has some support from Labour MPs, was tabled to introduce controls on health data sharing - and to ensure that such data could not be shared with anyone other than the police.

House of Lords Communications Committee inquiry into internet regulation

This Monday, ORG Staff Javier Ruiz and Myles Jackman gave evidence to a House of Lords Select Committee. The Committee is seeking to establish possible future methods of regulation for internet platforms.

Peers asked questions about how well ORG believe current systems of internet regulation are working, and requested ORG's input on some specific questions.

Particular issues ORG highlighted include:

  • Age verification tools are insufficiently regulated from a privacy perspective. Between the two bodies with responsibilities to overview age verification (BBFC and ICO), neither are assigned the task of considering user privacy.
  • When considering regulation of particular internet platforms in a reactionary manner, for example in response to terrorist or gang activity using the service, particular consideration should be given to the specific features of the platform in question which gave rise to the activity that should be prevented, and what distinguishes that platform from others.
  • Article 15 of the Electronic Commerce Directive is an EU law which generally prohibits EU Member States from requiring that internet platforms and intermediaries monitor their users. That Article has not been properly transposed into UK law and will be lost after Brexit if specific action is not taken. More info on this point can be found in this blog post by Graham Smith.

Parliament threatens Mark Zuckerberg with formal summons to give evidence

Recently, in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Parliament heard evidence from Facebook's Chief Technical Officer Mike Schroepfer. The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee was unsatisfied with the 5-hour evidence session with Schroepfer and on 1 May issued a letter reiterating their desire for CEO Mark Zuckerberg to appear before the Committee directly to give evidence.

As the letter notes, as a US resident Zuckerberg does not normally fall within the jurisdiction of the UK Parliament, but threatens him with a formal summons to give evidence the next time he enters UK territory:

It is worth noting that, while Mr Zuckerberg does not normally come under the jurisdiction of the UK parliament, he will do so the next time he enters the country. We hope that he will respond positively to our request, but, if not, the committee will resolve to issue a formal summons for him to appear when he is next in the UK.

However - as Dr Hannah White of the Institute for Government told The Guardian - when choosing whether Zuckerberg should appear as a result of the letter, Facebook may look to the precedent set when the CEO of Kraft refused to answer questions about the firm's takeover of Cadbury's.

The letter contains a list of 39 questions which the Committee are seeking answers to from Facebook.

Other national developments

NHS Scotland releases Digital Health Strategy paper

Last week, the NHS Digital Health Strategy was announced. NHS Scotland intend to create a National Digital Platform which would "Deliver a capability for citizens to access and update information about their health and wellbeing, including their records and from personal monitoring, and to interact with services".

The full report can be downloaded from the Scottish Parliament website here.

WhatsApp co-founder leaves Facebook over privacy concerns

WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum has indicated plans to leave the Facebook-owned company over concerns about Facebook's handling of personal data on the platform. Of particular concern is the fact that the Washington Post article covering Koum's departure noted that Koum had concerns about Facebook attempting to weaken the encryption used by WhatsApp.

This news comes a few months after the other co-founder of WhatsApp, Brian Acton, co-founded a foundation for the Signal encrypted messaging service after also leaving WhatsApp.

ORG media coverage

See ORG Press Coverage for full details.

2018-04-29-The Sun-Facebook ‘planning new device that sends messages to you SKIN to help you read them in important meetings’
Author: Charlie Parker
Summary: Jim Killock quoted in a story about Facebook's work on invasive body-worn technologies.
Topics: Privacy
2018-04-27-BBC News-Deadline to amend UK surveillance laws
Author: BBC News
Summary: Javier Ruiz quoted in a judgment about Liberty's recent ruling in their 'People v Snoooper's Charter' challenge.
Topics: Mass surveillance
2018-04-27-BBC News-Porn: All you need to know about the UK's porn block for under 18s
Author: Nicholas Rotherham
Summary: Pandora Blake quoted and mentioned as an ORG AC member in an article about age verification for pornography.
Topics: Online age verification

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