June 21, 2013 | Ruth Coustick-Deal

June Newsletter: What does PRISM mean for the UK?

Updates on digital rights news and ORG activities.

What does PRISM mean for the UK? 

Over the past couple of weeks a number of alarming stories about US intelligence access to personal information have emerged. "PRISM"is the name of one such surveillance programme, allowing the NSA to gather people's data from the biggest American Internet companies like Facebook and Google.

The US law upon which PRISM is built is the FISA Amendments Act, or FISAAA. Specifically, section 1881a creates a power to gather 'foreign intelligence information' from Internet companies relating to non-US citizens: ie. the rest of the world. Further revelations about the UK intelligence agency's (GCHQ) access to data gathered by their US counterparts have raised serious concerns about the legal framework they apply when accessing the data.

William Hague, Foreign Secretary, responded to the revelations with a statement in Parliament, a classic, 'nothing to hide, nothing to fear'. Despite challenges from MPs, questions remain unanswered, including whether GCHQ can access UK citizens' or others' data from the NSA without a warrant. 

ORG are fighting for greater data protection law at the EU to enshrine UK citizens' privacy rights, will be tabling further questions at Parliament and are organising a briefing for MPs in Parliament to explain the serious issues at stake here.

Ludford letting FISAAA in the back door

Baroness Ludford has spent her time in European Parliament proposing 113 amendments to the EU Data Protection Regulation, many of which undermine the control you should have over your data.

Baroness Ludford 

In one of the most damanging changes to the Regulation, Amendment 1210 would mean your data could be transferred to a third country or international organisation, without you being informed. It hardly needs spelling out, given the recent news about PRISM, but knowing which companies or countries your data might be moved to is a fundamental consideration when deciding whether to share your data.

This isn't the only damaging amendment she has proposed. You can read all of them on LobbyPlag.eu, and read about her weakening of consent on our blog. Despite acknowledging the criticisms she still hasn't changed her position.
You can contact your MEP on our Naked Citizens campaign website to ask them to respect our privacy rights.

ORGCon2013 Success!

Snoopers' Charter debate at ORGCon2013

Thank you to all who came along to ORGCon2013! It was a great event and we enjoyed engaging talks on the full range of digital issues. Hundreds came through the doors at the IET and there was an excellent atmosphere of debate and discourse.

The highlight of the event was Caspar Bowden's talk on FISAAA. Planned before the PRISM leaks, it was supremely relevant in the light of recent news, filling the room. His speech has since been cited as the most important and thorough explanation of FISAAA on the Internet by Stephen Fry, among others. You can watch the whole talk on our YouTube channel now.

If you want to read more about what happened at ORGCon, check out our review and keep an eye out for the keynote videos.

Web filters: A load of cock? 

Internet censorship was once again proposed as the solution to the ills of the world this week. Labour put forward a debate in Parliament on child protection on Wednesday, and ahead of this Executive Director, Jim Killock, spoke at a Policy Exchange event on this issue. Both debates and the motion put forward by Labour unhelpfully conflated child abuse images and legal adult-content. The debate was marked with technically illiterate comments. Clare Perry described problems with over-blocking as 'a load of cock'  at the Policy Exchange event, and others suggested that only very clever people will be able to get round filters.

Culture Secretary Maria Miller has invited Internet companies to a summit to discuss how to restrict acccess to 'highly offensive, unlawful and illegal material' - which encompassses a very broad range of material. ORG and other groups have written to her demanding that civil society be present to make sure that evidence and overblocking are actually discussed. 

News in brief

New website design!

Open Rights Group have re-launched our website with a brand new interface. Have a look and take the chance to read some of our in depth blog posts on current issues.  

Great ORGZine articles

ORGzine has had some fantastic articles in the last month. We particularly recommend Turkey's Twitter War; #FBrape and Censorship; and Unravelling 3D Printing and Intellectual Property Laws: From Napster to Thingiverse and beyond.

Support our essential work today!

Join ORG today! In the last few weeks ORG have responded to a myriad of new threats to your rights:
We have been pushing for answers from the Government on PRISM, spread knowledge and awareness of how FISAAA actually works, spoken up against censorship in the child protection debate, analysed all the EU data protection amendments and worked as part of an international coalition to keep citizens' rights at the front of the European debate, met with EE and Ipsos Mori to find out what they are doing with your data, and run a national conference on digital rights!

With all that is going on NOW is the time to join ORG and help us keep this work going and take on greater staff capacity. We can't do the necessary work we do without support from digital rights activists like yourselves.