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Press releases

Press releases


June 23, 2014 | Pam Cowburn

Customers demand action from ISPs over data retention

As a result of an Open Rights Group campaign,  over 1300 customers have written to their internet service providers (ISPs) to ask why they are still retaining their web, email, SMS and phone data. This is despite the European Court of Justice striking down the Data Retention Directive in April because it breached our rights to privacy and protection of personal data. The ruling means there is likely no legal basis for the continuing retention of data. Most experts believe that the Data Retention Regulations 2009, which oblige ISPs to keep these records, are now invalid.  

Open Rights Group’s Legal Director Elizabeth Knight said:

‘The Government needs to give a full explanation of the grounds on which it is advising ISPs to continue to retain data. The response to Open Rights Group’s campaign shows that customers also want answers. It’s time that ISPs seek clarity from the courts instead of blindly following the Government’s advice.'

Open Rights Group is looking into the possibility of taking legal action against the Government if it continues to implement data retention. 

In the view of Open Rights Group, the UK Data Retention (EC Directive) Regulations 2009 are 'ultra vires', meaning they are, and have always been, outside the Government's powers. The Data Retention Regulations were made under the European Communities Act 1972. As a result, the Government enjoyed the power to make the Regulations only because they were made pursuant to an EU Directive. When the European Court of Justice declared the Data Retention Directive invalid for breaching fundamental rights, the decision had retrospective effect. This means the Data Retention Directive was never valid. As a result the Government did not have the power to make the Data Retention Regulations in the first place. 



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June 07, 2014 | Pam Cowburn

Stephen Fry calls spying on citizens ‘squalid and rancid’ at Don’t Spy on Us Day of Action in London

The performer Stephen Fry condemned the government’s failure to act over the Snowden revelations at the start of the Don’t Spy on Us Day of Action in London today.

In a pre-recorded video, Fry said that using the fear of terrorism, "is a duplicitous and deeply wrong means of excusing something as base as spying on the citizens of your own country”.

Marking the anniversary of the start of the Snowden revelations, the Day of Action is the biggest privacy event of 2014, with over 500 people attending the conference at Shoreditch Town Hall.  Speaking at the event are high profile experts in technology, security and human rights, from all over the world. They include Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales who said: "The tide is beginning to turn as the public comes to understand just how broken the surveillance state is.”

Author and co-founder of the Open Rights Group, Cory Doctorow said: “Freedom from surveillance is essential to freedom itself. The freedom to think, to speak and to have discourse without fear of reprisal or judgement is at the core of democracy itself.”

Security technologist and author, Bruce Schneier said: “We have to choose between surveillance or security: an internet that is vulnerable to all attackers or an internet that is secure for all users. In our interconnected world, security is more important.

The day of action was organised by the Don’t Spy on Us Campaign, a coalition of privacy, free expression and digital rights organisations, that is calling for the government to put an end to mass surveillance by GCHQ.

Don’t Spy on Us is calling for:

  • an inquiry to report before the next general election to investigate the extent to which the law has failed

  • new legislation that will make the security agencies accountable to our elected representatives.

  • judges not the Home Secretary to decide when spying is justified

  • an end to mass surveillance in line with our 6 principles (No surveillance without suspicion, Transparent laws not secret laws, Judicial not political authorisation, Effective democratic oversight, The right to redress, A secure web for all).

Thomas Hughes, Executive Director, ARTICLE 19:

“All of us have a right to free expression and a right to privacy, but these are violated by arbitrary mass surveillance programmes that assume guilt over innocence. If the UK, which prides itself on being an open and democratic nation, continues to carry out mass surveillance on this scale, it gives carte blanche to oppressive regimes to keep spying on their citizens, restricting the space for free expression.”

Emma Carr, acting director of Big Brother Watch:

“On the first anniversary of the spying revelations, we call on the Government to publicly recognise that the UK’s surveillance law urgently needs reviewing and that the oversight mechanisms need strengthening. Without affirmative action the Government will certainly find that the general public’s faith in politicians to properly monitor how the security agencies are using surveillance powers will diminish. The law is out of date, the oversight is weak and the reporting of what happens is patchy at best. The public is right to expect better and it is high time that the Government stops burying its head in the sand and accept that the current status quo must change.”

Jo Glanville, Director, English PEN:

"The protection of the right to a private life is crucial for freedom of expression.  None of us can freely exchange or record information and ideas without the expectation of privacy.  Its been a year since we found out that GCHQ has been engaging in blanket, unwarranted surveillance and our politicians have conspicuously failed to address our concerns or to protect our rights.  They need to act now."

Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty:

“The game is up and the authorities busted on blanket surveillance pursued without democratic debate let alone legal authority. Now those in power need to know that we care. Events like ‘Don’t Spy On Us’ are an important part of demonstrating that fundamental breaches of trust have consequences.”

Jim Killock, Open Rights Group:

"We’ve had a year of inaction, delay and obfuscation from the  government. They can’t avoid answering these questions forever. They’re undermining everyone’s confidence in the security services, parliament and the technologies we use everyday."

Gus Hosein, Executive Director of Privacy International:

Secret surveillance is an anathema to a democratic society, as no real debate can take place without an informed public. The Snowden documents have been critical in sparking this debate, and we must now advocate for laws that make the State’s actions transparent, subject to independent authorisation and effective oversight, and outline clear legal frameworks in accordance with democratic principles.





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May 15, 2014 | Pam Cowburn

European day of action: Citizens call on MEPs to protect digital rights

 

Today, a coalition of 36 civil rights organisations invites European citizens to take part in a day of action to make sure that the next European Parliament defends digital civil and human rights. Through WePromise.eu, people can pledge to vote for candidates who have signed up to protect digital rights.

Ed Paton-Williams, Campaigner at Open Rights Group said:

'In recent months, we've seen the European Parliament vote on issues such as data protection, net neutrality and surveillance, all of which have a big impact on our privacy and free speech online. We need to make sure that the MEPs we vote for will understand, promote and defend our online rights.

About WePromise.eu

The idea of the WePromise.eu is simple: Candidates promise to support a Charter of ten digital rights principles. Citizens promise to vote for candidates who have, by election day, signed the Charter. The campaign was initiated by European Digital Rights (EDRi), a network of 36 civil rights organisations run in cooperation with international activist group GoVeto. Over 330 candidates for the European Parliament from 24 Member States have already signed the Charter, including 32 from the UK.

London MEPs face questions on digital rights

As part of the WePromise.eu action day, Open Rights Group will tonight host a Q&A session with MEP candidates Claude Moraes (Labour), Sarah Ludford (Liberal), Danny Bates (Green) and Paul Oakley (UKIP). Chaired by writer and journalist Glyn Moody, the debate will give voters the opportunity to question the candidates on how they will work for our online rights. The event will take place at Shoreditch Village Hall, from 6.30pm.

To attend tonight's event or for more information about WePromise.eu, please email pam@openrightsgroup.org





 

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May 13, 2014 | Jason Kitcat

ECJ Google Spain ruling raises concerns for online free speech

Open Rights Group believes that today’s ruling by the European Court of Justice could pose a threat to free speech online. The Court ruled that an internet search provider 'is responsible for the processing that it carries out of personal data which appear on web pages published by third parties’.

Javier Ruiz, Policy Director at Open Rights Group said:

"We need to take into account individuals' right to privacy but this ruling raises significant concerns. If search engines are forced to remove links to legitimate public content, it could lead to online censorship. This case has major implications for all kind of internet intermediaries, not just search engines."

Today’s ruling goes against the opinion given by Advocate General Niilo Jaaskinen last June when he said that Google should not be responsible for content published by third parties.

For more information, please email pam@openrightsgroup.org

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May 08, 2014 | Pam Cowburn

Is iPod tax on cards as government delays right to copy your music?

Open Rights Group is concerned that the government is considering an 'iPod tax', as proposed copyright exceptions for personal copying were delayed yesterday.

The  Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments (JCSI) approved three of five Statutory Instruments (SI) relating to copyright law but is still considering a further two: exceptions for parody and for personal copying (also known as format shifting).

Open Rights Group is concerned that groups representing rightsholders are seeking compensation for consumers potentially copying music they have bought onto different devices, for example from a CD to their iPod. Last year, UK Music, which represents the live music sector, said that “the exception cannot lawfully be made without fair compensation”. (1)

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

“It has taken nine years and two separate reviews to get our copyright close to being fit-for purpose in the digital age. It is extremely worrying that at this stage, exceptions for personal copying and parody are being delayed. We believe that the government is under intense pressure to introduce an 'iPod tax' that would push up prices for consumers.”

When similar legislation was introduced in Spain, it resulted in levies of being applied to a range of devices that could copy content. The levies ranged from € 3.40 for CD and DVD recorders to €227 for some photocopiers. The Spanish law was killed in 2011 after 3 million people signed a petition opposing it. 

In a letter to Open Rights Group dated Apr 2 2014, Viscount Younger of Leckie said:

“The parallel provision to allow some personal copying recognises that copyright should not unduly restrict private actions where they cause no harm to the Rerights holder, especially when those actions are widely considered acceptable, and enhance the enjoyment and demand for creative works.”

Open Rights Group is urging the government to stand by these words and approve the Statutory Instrument for the exception as it stands.

For more information, please email: pam@openrightsgroup.org

 

Notes

(1) http://www.ukmusic.org/assets/general/UK_Music_Technical_Review_Submission_Final_17_7_13.pdf



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May 06, 2014 | Pam Cowburn

Internet Day Against DRM: Limit the use of DRM technologies

On International Day Against DRM, the Open Rights Group is calling for limits on the use of DRM technologies, which restrict the ways that we access and control digital content.  

Executive Director Jim Killock said:

'The government recently published long overdue amendments that will bring copyright law into the 21st century. Now, we need to challenge those corporations that, in the name of copyright enforcement, are stifling competition and restricting consumer rights. DRM technologies enable companies to control and dominate the market by preventing competitors from making add-ons that work with their products. DRM also erodes the rights we have over our purchases, preventing us from passing them on, selling them or simply using them how we want.'

Typically used to control how digital content was consumed, DRM is now being used in the manufacture of products such as coffee makers where it has been used to ensure that only the manufacturers' coffee can be used in their machines. Car manufacturers Renault have effectively made car owners 'rent' their car's battery from a battery manufacturer.  DRM ensures that they are locked into this contract as the battery can be remotely prevented from re-charging.

The International Day Against DRM is organised by the Free Software Association: https://www.defectivebydesign.org

For press inquiries, email pam@openrightsgroup.org



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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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