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Press releases

Press releases


April 08, 2014 | Pam Cowburn

European Court of Justice finds Data Retention Directive invalid

Open Rights Group welcomed today’s declaration by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) that the Data Retention Directive is invalid. The Court found that the Directive severely interferes with the fundamental rights to respect for private life and to the protection of personal data. The ruling was prompted by two separate cases brought by Digital Rights Ireland and an Austrian group,  which includes privacy activists AK Vorrat Austria.

Open Rights Group Executive Director, Jim Killock said:

'Today’s ruling recognises that blanket data collection interferes with our privacy rights.  We must now see the repeal of national legislation that obliges telecoms companies to collect data about our personal phone calls, text messages, emails and internet usage. This collection is indiscriminate and reverses the presumption of innocent until proven guilty.'

The 2006 directive was introduced allegedly to help investigations into serious crime and terrorism but there were no restrictions to prevent it from being used for less serious misdemeanours, such as copyright breaches. Under the Directive, telecoms companies were obliged to collect and retain location and traffic data about phone calls, text messages, emails and internet use and retain that information for between six months and two years. The Court found that the Directive failed to state criteria that would ensure data was only kept for as long as is strictly necessary.

The ruling supports the earlier Opinion of Advocate General, Cruz Villalon, who in December 2013 found that the Directive was incompatible with the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights. At the time he proposed that the EU should be allowed time to adopt new legislation that would rectify the invalidity of the Directive. However today’s ruling found that the Directive is invalid with immediate effect.

For more information, please contact Pam Cowburn: pam@openrightsgroup.org, 07749785932.



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April 03, 2014 | Pam Cowburn

European Parliament votes to protect free and fair internet

The European Parliament took a major step towards enshrining net neutrality in law today, when the EU Parliament voted yes to a new Regulation for a Telecommunications Single Market.

Executive Director of Open Rights Group, Jim Killock said,

‘We’re delighted that the European Parliament has backed an open, free and democratic internet and we hope that the British government does the same. The Regulation means that for the first time net neutrality is properly defined and protected in law, making sure that all internet traffic is treated equally.’

Open Rights Group had previously raised concerns that the Regulation included provisions that would allow ISPs to charge more for “specialised services”, in effect allowing corporations to use their purchasing power to pay for a faster internet. However, amendments brought in by an alliance of Socialists, Greens and Liberals closed down loopholes that would allow the creation of a two-tier internet. The Regulation also includes reforms that will end data roaming fees across Europe.

The Regulation must now be approved by the Council of Member States. 

For more information, please contact Pam Cowburn, pam@openrightsgroup.org, 07749785932.

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March 28, 2014 | Pam Cowburn

Victory for digital rights as UK Government publishes changes to copyright law

The UK’s out-of-date copyright law came closer to being fit for purpose yesterday, when the Government published regulations for copyright exceptions. They include exceptions for parody, personal copying, text mining, research and education. If the Regulations are approved by the House of Commons and House of Lords, they will become law on June 1, 2014.

The announcement is a victory for digital rights campaigners, the Open Rights Group, who have been calling for changes to copyright law since 2005. 

Executive Director Jim Killock said:

“These changes are important for both free speech and consumer rights.  They mean that people will no longer be infringing copyright when they make personal copies of their own music, films and books. Nor will they have to break the law if they contribute to our rich online culture of advert, film and music parodies. The important thing now is for MPs and Peers to say yes to the regulations and bring the UK’s copyright laws up to date and in line with most other European countries.”

Two government reviews, the 2006 Gowers Review and the 2011 Hargreaves Review recommended that exceptions for format shifting and parody were introduced. An Open Rights Group campaign righttoparody.org.uk put pressure on the government to introduce these exceptions, with over 1400 people signing a petition. Last week, Open Rights Group supporters sent 350 emails to Vince Cable and Lord Younger urging them not to delay reform any further.

For further information, please contact Pam Cowburn: pam@openrightsgroup.org



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March 18, 2014 | Pam Cowburn

Loopholes in EU telecom regulation threaten neutrality of the net

The neutrality of the internet is under threat after the European Parliament’s Industry Committee today voted yes to a new Regulation for a Telecom single Market. As they stand, the proposals include worrying loopholes that could allow the creation of a two-tiered internet. The full European Parliament will vote on the Regulation on 3rd April.

Jim Killock, Executive Director of Open Rights Group said:

‘By allowing ISPs to charge more for “specialised services”, the Regulation would enable telecoms and other companies to buy their way to a faster internet at the expense of individuals, start-ups and small businesses. This threatens the openness and freedom of the internet.'

Also of concern are proposals that would allow "reasonable traffic management measures" to "prevent or impede serious crime”. On these, Killock added:

‘It is unclear what "reasonable traffic management measures" are but potentially they could allow ISPs to block or remove content without any judicial oversight. Decisions about what the public can and and can’t see online should not be made by commercial organisations and without any legal basis.’

For more information or interviews, please contact Pam Cowburn: pam@openrightsgroup.org, 07749785932

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March 12, 2014 | Ed Paton Williams

Open Rights Group calls on UK government to end opposition to stronger European privacy rights

Digital campaigners, the Open Rights Group, welcome today’s vote in the European Parliament to approve a Regulation on data protection. The Regulation will strengthen European citizens’ rights over their data.

Executive Director Jim Killock said:

‘Today’s vote is an important step in giving citizens more rights over the personal data that companies hold about them. It is now time to ensure that this directive is agreed by the European Council and EU member states. The UK government has opposed the proposals in an attempt to appease the anti-European elements in the Conservative party. Internal political battles with UKIP should not be put before better data privacy for British citizens.’

The provisions should mean that:

  • Citizens have the right to get hold of electronic copies of their data
  • Citizens will also be able to request companies delete personal data that they hold
  • Citizens can object to the automated processing of their data for profiling
  • Companies who breach their customers’ privacy will face more significant fines of up to 5 percent of a company’s annual turnover

To arrange interviews with ORG experts, please contact Pam Cowburn, Communications Director, Open Rights Group: 07749785932, pam@openrightsgroup.org

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December 04, 2013 | Jim Killock

Get a court order, says Open Rights Group

David Cameron's Extremism Taskforce today announced that the government wants UK Internet Service Providers to help to block websites it deems are hosting illegal material.

They say that they the Taskforce will:

"work with internet companies to restrict access to terrorist material online which is hosted overseas but illegal under UK law" 

Jim Killock, Executive Director of the Open Rights Group, said:

"The government must use court orders if it wants sites 'blocked'. It is absolutely essential to use the courts so someone independent makes the decision. 

"However, blocking is not an effective policy. It is trivially evaded using common tools like proxies, VPNs or Tor. The real beneficiaries of this policy may be the extremists who can claim to be censored because of their views."

 

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October 18, 2013 | Lee Maguire

Civil Rights Groups Call On European Parliament To Vote For Strong Data Protection Rules

EDRI joint press release regarding the European Parliament's Committee on Civil Liberties will decide on the future of privacy and data protection in Europe.

http://www.edri.org/eudatap-pr

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October 18, 2013 | Jim Killock

ORG warns on Data Protection

Reacting to the leaked documents detailing the proposed Data Protection Regulation, ORG Executive Director Jim Killock warned that 'pseudonymous' categories of data could create privacy problems for EU citizens.

"Deciding that it is ok to process data if it is 'pseudonymous' is extremely dangerous. It could place a great deal of data out of the control of individuals.

"Web companies with big advertising revenues seem to want this so that they are relieved of many of their legal obligations. But that could leave users unable to control how a lot of their data is used.

"The NSA was recently shown to be using 'pseudonymous' cookies to track browsing the web, linking this data back to your identity, so the dangers are very real and proven."

MORE INFO

Full documents

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September 26, 2013 | Ed Paton Williams

Tom Watson MP: "The surveillance state is running amok and Parliament has absolutely failed."

Labour MP Tom Watson spoke out at the Labour Conference this evening to criticise Ed Miliband, David Cameron, Nick Clegg and the rest of Parliament for turning a blind eye to "the explosive growth in the power of the surveillance state"

Speaking in the light of a summer of revelations from whistleblower Edward Snowden about the Internet surveillance programmes of British and American intelligence, he said:

"We're living in the most closed system of liberal democracy in the Western world. We have the most unaccountable intelligence services."

"Parliamentary scrutiny hasn't just failed. It doesn't exist."

"I can't think what any party leader has said about this. That's an absolute disgrace. This is a callous denial of our freedom."

"I have no faith in the Intelligence and Security Committee [which is charged with overseeing the UK intelligence agencies]. I hope Parliamentarians say we're not going to take it this anymore."

"We have to say we're not going to put up with this and build a cross-party coalition to make the intelligence services accountable for once and for all and provide oversight of a surveillance state running amok."

He was speaking at a fringe event hosted by campaign groups Open Rights Group and Big Brother Watch.

Also speaking was Paul Johnson, the Deputy Editor of The Guardian who has orchestrated their coverage of the Edward Snowden revelations.

He talked about "the most surreal 36 hours I've ever had as a journalist" where, on the orders of GCHQ, "we bought masks and anglegrinders...to destroy the material [that they had from Edward Snowden]."

"We told them two weeks earlier it was already in New York. The whole thing was surreal. It was an entirely bizarre moment."

"It illustrates at heart that the British Government doesn't believe this story should have been written."

Javier Ruiz - Campaigns Director of Open Rights Group called for the start of a movement against mass surveillance:

"This isn't just the responsibility of political parties. We really need to look at a political solution that involves citizens, government and private companies."

Nick Pickles - Director of Big Brother Watch, told the audience, "How we govern data isn't fit for the Internet age. Parliament need to drag the intelligence agencies into the open. Secrecy cannot be justified to simply prevent embarrassment. We've been telling the world to do one thing while doing a completely different thing ourselves."

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June 07, 2013 | Ed Paton Williams

PRISM US Surveillance - Serious Questions for the UK Government

Digital rights campaigners Open Rights Group are extremely concerned by these unprecedented revelations of US spying on foreign citizens.

Executive Director Jim Killock said:

"The UK Government must tell us what they knew about PRISM. An investigation in Parliament is badly needed to find out whether the UK Government or intelligence agencies were in any way involved with any related invasion of UK citizens' privacy."

"US web companies operating in Britain must explain their role in this snooping on their clients' communications and cloud services." There should be answers to:

  1. What did the UK Government know about the PRISM programme?
  2. Given the history of collaboration between the US and the UK, can they give us assurances that UK secret services have not been involved in the PRISM programme?
  3. Will the UK Government be seeking clarification from the US Government about whether the data of UK citizens is being monitored by the NSA?
  4. Has the UK received any intelligence based on queries made through the alleged PRISM programme?
  5. Would the Government advise that UK citizens, businesses and MPs stop using services provided by American web companies such as Google, Facebook and Microsoft?
  6. Can the UK Government give assurance that the commericial confidentiality of UK businesses has not been breached through the PRISM programme?

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