August 19, 2014 | Pam Cowburn

Cameron's big stand will have little impact

Yesterday, the Prime Minister David Cameron announced his latest effort to take a 'big stand on protecting our children online'. In a three-month pilot, that starts in October, online music videos will be given an age classification by the British Board of Classification. This rating will be displayed when the music videos are uploaded to YouTube or the music video site Vevo. Cameron claims that such a rating system will bring music videos in line with offline media such as films.

The pilot seems to be designed to give parents guidance and there has been no announcement about plans to use age verification pop ups, presumably because these would be ineffective. As James Ball points out in The Guardian, 'Surely no teenager would dream of using a false birthdate to fox such a system?' 

But there are concerns that after the pilot, the scheme could be extended so that rated content is blocked by 'family friendly' filters that are being promoted to Broadband customers. Cameron refered to filters in his speech yesterday and said that as a parent, "bringing up children in an internet age, you are endlessly worried about what they are going to find online'. As more than 60% of new customers are choosing not to install filters, it seems that the British public don't share his fears or at least don't believe that the solution lies in switching on a filter. 

ORG is continuing to raise awareness of the censorship caused by filters through the Department of Dirty video and the Blocked website, which allows people to check whether URLs are blocked by web filters.

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July 30, 2014 | Javier Ruiz

Victory: format shifting and parody clear last hurdle

After nine years of campaigning, we have finally done it. The House of Lords yesterday cleared the last hurdle for parody and private copies to be legal under copyright law in the UK. Several new limitations to update copyright were agreed in June, but private copying, often called format shifting, and parody were held back, creating fears that they might be dropped.

Reform of outdated copyright laws has been a major campaign focus for ORG from day one. We asked for these changes when the then Labour government launched a major health check up of copyright law in 2006, the Gowers review. Pressure from industry lobby groups stalled the reforms proposed at the time.

It has taken nine years, and another comprehensive review of copyright by Professor Ian Hargreaves, to get these proposals agreed. We engaged in many rounds of detailed consultation, argued for the changes in round tables and meetings, and got people to sign our petitions and create infringing parodies at


So we had fun. But what have we won?

For most people copyright is an arcane subject. Our friends and family aren't even aware that by copying their own legally purchased CDs to their iPod or that by making spoofs such as Downfall parodies, they have been breaking the law.

But copyright has immense implications for the functioning of the Internet and digital technologies.

The proposed reforms are quite modest. Despite protestations from industry about the potential impacts of the new parody exception, the law has very strong constraints. It is framed as a fair dealing exception, meaning that by definition it will only be acceptable if it has no negative impact on the revenues generated by the original. In addition, the exception does not affect any moral rights the author may claim, for example around derogatory treatment.

We will have to make sure the new parody right can be used and isn’t inappropriately challenged in the courts. But it has to be said that getting parody onto the statute book is a major achievement for the government and those who supported the proposal, including campaign groups, and comedians and YouTube parodists who joined us in our campaign. It was striking in the debate how many of our arguments were put forward by Baroness Neville-Rolfe for the government:

Online creative sites, which are about building grass-roots creativity, have told us that they have encountered sometimes insurmountable issues with lawyers and copyright owners over the years. A generation of people who are the bright new talents in the UK’s creative industry started out by posting their work online, including Ben Wheatley, director of the hit film “Kill List”.

One of the ways that campaigners are able to highlight questionable business practice is by parodying a company’s own brand or slogans. Yet as the law stands, to do so carries considerable risk of legal action and with it the risk of campaign materials being blocked from publication. The Government believe it is time to change the law. The proposed change enjoys wide support: from British broadcasters, production companies, creators and performers; from campaigning groups; and from centres of learning, as the ability to re-edit copyright works in new and experimental ways is an important learning exercise for building creative skills.

The new private copying exception is also relatively modest, although again a very significant step forward for the UK.

The exception is limited to personal use of lawfully obtained originals, and does not allow any sharing of the works, including with close family members. It also does not allow for the removal of any anti-copy technical protection measures, including those found on most DVDs and Blu-Ray discs. Given most media consumption is moving to a pure digital environment constrained by such measures, it remains to be seen how effective the new right will be in practice. How many people will be ripping CDs in ten years time?

Copyright law has a mechanism which allows you to ask the government to force the removal of excessive anti-copy measures when they inhibit your rights, but it will take a considerable fight to see this applied to private copying. At this point we don’t know the legal arguments that rights holders or the government might apply to resist requests.

Thankfully, the exception allows people to keep copies stored in personal cloud services. This has caused major consternation among rights holders, meaning industry bodies not creators, who were probably hoping to be able to impose a tax on cloud services.

Industry demanded to be compensated for this new right to personal private copies. To the uninitiated this may sound slightly insane: who would pay twice to rip a CD? Of course, this would have seemed more logical back in the first days of cassette tapes, when industry really did fear that ‘home taping is killing music’. But for many countries, the principle of compensation in return for private copying is very embedded, and often a significant revenue stream for collecting societies. Levies can be charged on paper, printers, hard disks and blank media. The UK has understandably baulked at the idea, which is probably the biggest reason why it has been so difficult to introduce a private copying exception into copyright law. The Government can’t accept levies, and rights holders won’t accept private copying without them.

The principle of compensation is established in EU copyright law. The directive on Copyright in the Information Society says that rights holders should be compensated for the introduction of any private copy exceptions. But—and it is a big but—only for any actual loses.

The government's argument is that legalising private copies that in most cases were already taking place does not incur additional loses. Any previous loses had already been incorporated into the market, so any new compensation would in fact provide additional income to copyright holders.

Industry has begrudgingly understood that this time they will not force the government to budge, as eloquently expressed by Lord Stevenson of Balmacara when he withdrew his amendment to the exception yesterday. But copyright holders will be looking for any evidence of losses to take the UK government to court in Europe to force a new tax, possibly on cloud services.

They should think twice. Levies are unpopular. The copyright industries, like any, have a social compact with the public. Copyright needs to be seen as reasonable. Levies easily get out of hand, and become embedded in legal systems, whether or not they really represent compensation for actual damage.

This brings us to the wider point. The net effect of these exceptions will be a stronger, more flexible and more legitimate copyright regime, which can only be to the genuine benefit of rights holders. This makes you wonder how good rights holder lobby groups are at representing their own interests. They have argued extremely strongly against the package of reforms, saying they will undermine and weaken copyright as a whole.

Like many industry lobby groups, the copyright lobby groups confuse profits and control with their strategic interests. A public interest copyright policy serves everyone's interests, by balancing the rights of copyright holders to profit from their work with the rights of citizens to freedom of expression and access to information and culture. These exceptions are a step towards a system that reflects that, and we should be proud that we helped copyright move in the right direction.

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July 25, 2014 | Javier Ruiz

Ofcom report shows consumers don't want filters

Ofcom has just published a report that shows that some 60% of households are actively switching off filters despite the best efforts of companies. ISPs that aren’t pushing filters are reporting even lower stats, with well over 90% declining filters. Ofcom’s report on Network Level Filtering Measures was based on survey questionnaires sent to the big four ISPs: BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media.

The ISPs told Ofcom how many customers have been offered the filters, and how many have set them up. The percentage of new customers who set up the filters are a small fraction:

  • Virgin Media 4%
  • BT 5%
  • Sky 8%
  • TalkTalk 36%

TalkTalk’s 36% take up seems somewhat surprising. TalkTalk is the company that has been providing filters for longest, since 2011, so it could provide a glimpse of what filters will look like once the initial drive stabilises. The report shows that 64% of their customers have made an “active choice” to switch off the filter. Only 20% of their customers made the “active choice” to turn on the filters when the service was first introduced. TalkTalk now reports 36% uptake of filters, after they pre-ticked the box in the welcome screen. Some 16% seem to have simply clicked continue with defaults. Howeve we would like TalkTalk to clarify if this percentage are using filters to prevent access to content other than viruses protection. Without a breakdown between these figures the figure is meaningless. Virgin has a similar system with their ChildSafe and VirusSafe options, and should also provide this data for the avoidance of doubt. 

Given TalkTalk’s aggressive promotion of filters, these figures would hint at the maximum penetration to be expected if customers are given a choice. Even so, their defaults work against genuine user choice and should be opposed.

Because Ofcom didn’t ask the companies to report properly on the demographics of the take up, we don’t know whether customers taking up the filters had households with children. Ofcom needs to get back to the companies and give the public more detailed information once the uptake of filters stabilises.

The figures in the report suggest that marketing and interface design may make some difference, but there’s no evidence that filters are a compelling issue for consumers. So perhaps ISPs should spend less money promoting filters in order to keep No 10 happy, also saving as less hardware is being deployed, and offer instead a cheaper service. This could increase internet access among the poorest households, a more laudable policy goal in an information economy.

Ofcom explains away the low adoption rates with all sort of excuses. The report claims that much higher numbers of existing customers are taking up the filters after installation, but doesn’t provide any proper figures. It is to be expected that larger numbers of existing customers, in comparison to new customers, will take up filters. Simply because overall there are lots more existing customers. What we need to know is the current proportion of filtered internet connections of all customers - new and old - that have been offered filters, and what are their demographics.

Perhaps the most telling aspect of this issue is that the extremely low uptake figures do not appear anywhere in the three-page Executive Summary of Ofcom’s report.

Maybe the newly formed Department of Dirty has had a word – or perhaps Ofcom’s officials think it is a career limiting move to draw attention to the public’s lack of interest in filtering, a policy that David Cameron has been personally driving forward.

According to their own website, Ofcom’s principal duty is to further the interests of citizens and of consumers . It is hard to see how this squares up with the tacit support - evidenced in this biased report - for one sided government policies.

The organisations promoting internet filters are ideologically motivated and will not give up in the face of such disappointing responses to voluntary choices. Next they will be asking for more draconian measures. But these extremely low rates clearly reflect social attitudes against information controls. They should make the coalition government consider what kind of democratic mandate they truly have to promote mass filtering.

If you are worried that a website may be filtered by ISPs you can check it with our website —or join us to campaign for an open Internet, free from censorship and arbitrary blocking.

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July 18, 2014 | Jim Killock

Dear Theresa, see you in court

Parliament has a done a terrible thing. They’ve ignored a court judgment and shoved complex law through a legislative mincer in just three days.

But in doing so they won’t have had the final word. You’ve already shown them the growing public opposition to mass surveillance. There was incredible action from supporters: 4458 of you wrote to your MPs with even more phoning up on the day of the vote.  Together we helped 49 MPs rebel against the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill. It may have passed, but thanks to you they know that we do not agree.

Help us challenge DRIP: Join now

Whilst Parliament swallowed Theresa May’s tired arguments that “terrorist plots will go undetected” and “these are powers and capabilities that exist today", she failed to make a compelling argument that holding everyone’s data is necessary and proportionate. Frankly, the Government was evasive and duplicitous, and they were in a hurry to cover their tracks. 

Tom Watson MP described the process as “democratic banditry, resonant of a rogue state. The people who put this shady deal together should be ashamed.”

And the European Court’s decision was very clear: blanket data retention is unlawful and violates the right to privacy. 

The courts will have the final say on whether DRIP breaches human rights. And no matter what David Cameron believes, the UK has international obligations.  The European Convention on Human Rights, the European Charter of Fundamental Rights and our own Human Rights Act – all exist to defend our rights and are where we will be able to challenge DRIP.

And that’s what we will do.

The ECJ has stated once that blanket data retention is unlawful. This means we have strong grounds to challenge the new legislation on the same basis. That’s where we need you. We can initiate legal action with your help: please join ORG today. 

We’re already meeting with lawyers and taking Counsel’s advice to work out the best way to take the Government to court. We will work with every other group who is willing to help. But a major legal battle like this is going to be tough. The more resources we have, the more we’ll be able to do to stand up to DRIP.  

Our supporters do a huge amount to stand up for human rights. Together we won against the Snoopers' Charter and against ACTA. Right now joining ORG is a way to ensure we can challenge and stop DRIP.

UPDATE Friday 5pm: Over 200 people have joined ORG in the last week, and 100 of those today. 

UPDATE Saturday 9am:  Over 260 people have joined to support us in the fight against #DRIP.

UPDATE Sunday 11am:  Over 300 people have joined to support us in the fight against #DRIP. Please join to support our work!

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July 17, 2014 | Jim Killock and Elizabeth Knight

DRIP: Convenience or Necessity?

At the heart of the DRIP debate is a very tricky problem: surveillance will contribute to policing. It isn’t the only way to do policing, it may not be the best way, but it will produce what appear to be actual results. Politicians can claim that, very occasionally, it may even be the only way to solve a crime.

What is beyond doubt is that the UK police seem to use data on a pretty routine basis. Some will be ‘retained data’, some will not. But our agencies make around 500,000 RIPA demands a year, under internal supervision.

This stands in stark contrast to most of the continent. While Poland seems even more data-hungry than the UK, nearly half of our EU partners have now abandoned data retention. Many were very reluctant in the first place. Data requests in some countries are negligible: Germany for instance records low thousands of requests.

What can we conclude? We’d have to argue that the UK was an extremely different place to Europe, where crime could only be detected through data to conclude that data retention is truly “essential”. This seems pretty unlikely although we’ve found people are willing to argue that the UK really is different. Far more likely, it seems to us is that the police are just used to using data as a routine practice in the UK, where other police forces are not. After all, it is cheap and easy: from a police point of view it could save costs even if they don’t solve many more crimes.

The question for the UK to answer is not whether data can contribute to policing but whether it is justified to retain data of innocent people on a blanket basis. The charge that Jack Straw and Lord Howard made in Parliament was that civil libertarians who asked for “targeted” retention were asking the police to be “clairvoyant” as they would have to know in advance whether somebody would commit a crime and become of interest. That is the argument for blanket retention in a nutshell. We don’t know who the criminals will be so we will keep all of the data all of the time.

The problem with this argument is that it swiftly extends itself to every kind of activity you can imagine. Your smart meter can tell the police if you’re growing cannabis or playing with chemicals, your Oyster card can help pinpoint whether you were near a crime scene; your car’s GPS tools can tell the police where you went. Your library might tell us if you’ve an unhealthy interest in chemistry or nuclear physics. Why not keep all of this data? Failing to do so, in Jack Straw’s terms, risks aiding criminals.

That’s why the line being drawn at “necessary and proportionate” is so important. This is the legal test for removing someone’s right to privacy. The alternative—justifying any invasion of privacy on the basis of its possible efficacy in extreme cases—means anything goes.

Under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, any interference with the right to privacy must be “necessary in a democratic society.” An interference will be considered “necessary in a democratic society” if:

(1) it answers a “pressing social need”; and

(2) it is proportionate to the legitimate aim pursued and if the reasons justifying it are “relevant and sufficient”.

(S and Marper v the United Kingdom, Applications nos. 30562/04 and 30566/04)

An interference will not be considered disproportionate if it is restricted in its application and effect, and safeguards exist to prevent arbitrary treatment. (MS v Sweden 74/1996/693/885) It was on proportionality and necessity grounds that the UK's DNA database was found to violate Article 8, owing to “the blanket and indiscriminate nature of the powers of retention of the fingerprints, cellular samples and DNA profiles of persons suspected but not convicted of offences.” It failed to “strike a fair balance between the competing public and private interests.” (S and Marper v the United Kingdom)

A similar test is set out in the Charter of Fundamental Rights, where “subject to the principle of proportionality, limitations may be made only if they are necessary and genuinely meet objectives...” (Article 52). This was the test applied by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in the Digital Rights Ireland case.

As the CJEU noted, proportionality requires that acts are “appropriate for attaining the legitimate objectives pursued by the legislation at issue and do not exceed the limits of what is appropriate and necessary in order to achieve those objectives” (paragraph 46). In practice, this means that “legislation must lay down clear and precise rules governing the scope and application of the measure in question and imposing minimum safeguards so that the persons whose data have been retained have sufficient guarantees to effectively protect their personal data against the risk of abuse and against any unlawful access and use of that data” (paragraph 54).

It was on the grounds of necessity and proportionality that the Data Retention Directive was found unlawful. It did not “lay down clear and precise rules governing the extent of the interference” and entailed “a wide-ranging and particularly serious interference with those fundamental rights in the legal order of the EU, without such an interference being precisely circumscribed by provisions to ensure that it is actually limited to what is strictly necessary”(paragraph 65). In particular, blanket retention was disproportionate (paragraph 59).

The Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill does nothing to address blanket retention. Blanket data retention is disproportionate on the basis that it goes far beyond what is required to meet the aimof investigating and prosecuting crime. It therefore cannot be said to be strictly necessary. Blanket retention exceeds the limits of what is appropriate. And the reasons provided by the Government are sufficient to justify some retention, but are not sufficient to justify blanket retention.

The Government is portraying the choice as retention of all data or no retention at all. This is a false dichotomy. here is an alternative: targeted retention. This would comply with the CJEU judgment. Targeted retention may be used not only in circumstances where a suspect has been identified, but also permits retention of all data in a particular area or all data of people belonging to a particular organisation or to everyone for a specific period of time (see paragraph 59 of the judgment). In addition, the police have many other methods and powers, including seizing physical evidence. And it should also be noted that some data is retained for business purposes in any event. Further, as all types of data proliferate, the necessity of data retention becomes more questionable.

For all these reasons Jack Straw is wrong to assert that for targeted retention to be successful one would have to know in advance whether somebody would commit a crime. He may be right that in very rare cases a criminal will be caught using blanket retention who would not be caught using targeted retention. But constructing a universal retention regime on the basis of a few rare incidents is the very definition of disproportionate.

In striking a balance between the legitimate aim and privacy, Courts also take account of harms including the fear instilled by ubiquitous surveillance, the chilling effect on freedom of speech and the risk of future abuse. Policing is not the only interest to be taken into account. Politicians should also pause to consider whether they would be content for rogue governments to grant themselves the broad powers contained in DRIP. We must apply the same standards to all governments to avoid being open to the charge of hypocrisy.

There is also a debate to be had regarding whether the resources dedicated to building up mass surveillance systems could be better spent on targeted and more intelligent investigations.

The recent vote also saw many Lib Dems moving towards accepting data retention, on the pragmatic justification that it can be useful in crime detection. Whilst the Government is undoubtedly correct that it is convenient for the police to rely on communications data, this does not mean it is necessary or proportionate for them to do so.

Currently all three main parties are sacrificing the idea of “necessary and proportionate” from being one that limits data retention to one that relies purely on access controls. This leaves us no defence against a quickly developing surveillance state. The Liberal Democrats should think very carefully about whether they have made the right decision in backing the DRIP Act. They could make the argument that this was an emergency measure and they do not support the idea of blanket collection. We have to hope that they quickly attempt to make the distinction rather than backing the Home Office view, which is designed to justify growing pervasive surveillance.

The same applies to the Labour party who should use the luxury of opposition to reconsider the mistakes they made in government. It would be wishful thinking to expect the Conservative party to change its mind while in power. However their backbenchers should recall their experience of Labour's excesses and the Conservative view of these in Opposition. Politicians need to do a great deal more than accepting the Home Office's assertions without challenge, which stand in sharp contrast to recent European human rights judgments.

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July 16, 2014 | Jim Killock

Scottish NGO results

As published by STV, we found a number of Scottish websites blocked by different filters provided by ISPs and mobile operators, apparently by mistake, without of course informing the website owners. Here is the list.

We have removed most of the “dead” websites we found in the dataset. Some blocks were not inaccurate—they included sites which had been abandoned and then squatted, for instance. There were around 9,000 websites in the list, available from the Scottish Charity Regulator.

The STV article discussing these results is here.

Update Autumn 2016: the table below has been edited to include links to the results pages

Network URL Status and results link Created
BT blocked 07/07/14 00:32
BT blocked 07/07/14 00:35
EE blocked 07/07/14 00:45
O2 blocked 07/07/14 00:45
Sky blocked 07/07/14 00:45
Vodafone blocked 07/07/14 00:45
EE blocked 07/07/14 00:52
O2 blocked 07/07/14 00:52
Sky blocked 07/07/14 00:52
Vodafone blocked 07/07/14 00:52
EE blocked 07/07/14 00:53
O2 blocked 07/07/14 00:53
Sky blocked 07/07/14 00:53
Vodafone blocked 07/07/14 00:53
EE blocked 07/07/14 00:59
O2 blocked 07/07/14 00:59
Sky blocked 07/07/14 00:59
Vodafone blocked 07/07/14 00:59
EE blocked 07/07/14 01:01
O2 blocked 07/07/14 01:01
Sky blocked 07/07/14 01:01
Vodafone blocked 07/07/14 01:01
EE blocked 07/07/14 01:01
O2 blocked 07/07/14 01:01
Sky blocked 07/07/14 01:01
Vodafone blocked 07/07/14 01:01
TalkTalk blocked 07/07/14 01:11
TalkTalk blocked 07/07/14 01:12
BT blocked 07/07/14 01:13
TalkTalk blocked 07/07/14 01:17
TalkTalk blocked 07/07/14 01:19
Vodafone blocked 07/07/14 01:32
EE blocked 07/07/14 01:33
O2 blocked 07/07/14 01:33
Sky blocked 07/07/14 01:33
Vodafone blocked 07/07/14 01:33
EE blocked 07/07/14 01:34
O2 blocked 07/07/14 01:34
Sky blocked 07/07/14 01:34
Vodafone blocked 07/07/14 01:34
EE blocked 07/07/14 01:39
O2 blocked 07/07/14 01:39
Sky blocked 07/07/14 01:39
TalkTalk blocked 07/07/14 01:39
Vodafone blocked 07/07/14 01:39
Sky blocked 07/07/14 01:43
TalkTalk blocked 07/07/14 01:43
TalkTalk blocked 07/07/14 01:43
BT blocked 07/07/14 01:45
TalkTalk blocked 07/07/14 01:45
BT blocked 07/07/14 01:46
VirginMedia blocked 07/07/14 01:46
BT blocked 07/07/14 01:53
EE blocked 07/07/14 01:53
O2 blocked 07/07/14 01:53
Sky blocked 07/07/14 01:53
Vodafone blocked 07/07/14 01:53
EE blocked 07/07/14 01:56
O2 blocked 07/07/14 01:56
Sky blocked 07/07/14 01:56
Vodafone blocked 07/07/14 01:56
BT blocked 07/07/14 02:02
Vodafone blocked 07/07/14 02:05
BT blocked 07/07/14 02:11
TalkTalk blocked 07/07/14 02:11
BT blocked 07/07/14 02:12
EE blocked 07/07/14 02:18
O2 blocked 07/07/14 02:19
Sky blocked 07/07/14 02:18
Vodafone blocked 07/07/14 02:18
BT blocked 07/07/14 02:18
TalkTalk blocked 07/07/14 02:18
BT blocked 07/07/14 02:22
VirginMedia blocked 07/07/14 02:22
BT blocked 07/07/14 02:23
TalkTalk blocked 07/07/14 02:25
Sky blocked 07/07/14 02:26
Vodafone blocked 07/07/14 02:26
BT blocked 07/07/14 02:32
VirginMedia blocked 07/07/14 02:32
BT blocked 07/07/14 02:41
O2 blocked 07/07/14 02:41
Sky blocked 07/07/14 02:41
Vodafone blocked 07/07/14 02:41
BT blocked 07/07/14 02:43
BT blocked 07/07/14 02:48
TalkTalk blocked 07/07/14 02:50
TalkTalk blocked 07/07/14 02:59
TalkTalk blocked 07/07/14 03:00
BT blocked 07/07/14 03:04
EE blocked 07/07/14 03:16
O2 blocked 07/07/14 03:04
Sky blocked 07/07/14 03:04
Vodafone blocked 07/07/14 03:04
Vodafone blocked 07/07/14 03:06
BT blocked 07/07/14 03:11
VirginMedia blocked 07/07/14 03:11
BT blocked 07/07/14 03:13
BT blocked 07/07/14 03:19
BT blocked 07/07/14 03:32
BT blocked 07/07/14 03:38
Vodafone blocked 07/07/14 03:38
EE blocked 07/07/14 04:18
O2 blocked 07/07/14 03:40
Sky blocked 07/07/14 03:39
Vodafone blocked 07/07/14 03:39
BT blocked 07/07/14 03:40
Sky blocked 07/07/14 03:40
Vodafone blocked 07/07/14 03:40
TalkTalk blocked 07/07/14 03:44
BT blocked 07/07/14 03:45
BT blocked 07/07/14 03:47
Vodafone blocked 07/07/14 03:48


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July 15, 2014 | Jim Killock

#DRIP heroes, round one

July 14, 2014 | Pam Cowburn

The DRIP myth list

Here are some of the arguments that the Government is using to justify passing emergency data retention legislation - and the reasons why the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill (DRIP) should not be rushed through Parliament. We are urging our supporters to call the House of Commons on 0207 219 3000 and demand that they vote against this legislation.

1. “This is an emergency”

The CJEU ruling was delivered on 8 April, 2014. The government has had 3 months to address the court’s findings. We believe that it is the threat of legal action by Open Rights Group and other organisations that has prompted this ‘emergency’ legislation -  not the threat of terrorism or criminal activity — but any legal action would be unlikely to produce any result for at least seven months. The government should not mislead us about the urgency of this legislation. Given its significance and the threat to our civil liberties, It should not be passed without proper parliamentary scrutiny.

Background: After the CJEU ruling, Open Rights Group and other organisations contacted the Home Office to ask them if they would be asking internet service providers to stop retaining data. In May, the Home Office responded by saying that ISPs should continue to retain data. Last month, over 1,500 ORG supporters wrote to their ISPs asking them to stop keeping their data. They responded by saying that they were acting under the instructions of the Home Office.

2. “This is not an extension of powers, it’s restoring the status quo”

The Prime Minister said, “we are not introducing new powers or capabilities” but in fact DRIP does not just deal with Regulations that were made illegal by the CJEU ruling. Clauses 3 to 5 of the Bill make amendments to the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA). DRIP extends the government's surveillance powers in two ways:

  • It extends the territorial scope of RIPA - this means that the government can issue interception warrants for communications data to companies outside of the UK.

  • It extends the definition of “telecommunications service” within RIPA. This will include webmail services such as Gmail. What isn’t clear is what other kinds of internet services are included.

3. “It’s the only way we can catch criminals”

We agree that the targeted retention of communications data can help the police to tackle serious crimes, such as terrorism and child abuse. However, the CJEU ruling outlined a low threshold for deciding to retain data. For example, if a serious crime is committed, data could be retained for a particular geographical region to support a criminal investigation. This means that the police could still retain data for specific investigations, rather than the blanket surveillance of all citizens.

The CJEU ruling was clear that blanket data retention interfered with our right to privacy and our right to a private family life. Other European countries, including Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Romania and Sweden, have rejected it. These countries continue to tackle serious crime without undermining their citizens’ civil liberties through blanket data retention.

4. “There is a sunset clause”

The Bill will expire on 31 December 2016. The government claims that this will ‘strengthen oversight and transparency’ but that date is two and a half years away. We believe that this date needs to be brought forward to 31 December 2014 and this can be amended or repealed very easily. If legislation is to be rushed through without debate, an earlier expiry date of 31 December 2014 would allow for public scrutiny over the next six months. This is a reasonable request even for those MPs who believe that this is an emergency situation.

5. “The Bill includes concessions that take into account the CJEU ruling”

DRIP ignores the main part of the CJEU ruling - that blanket data retention severely interferes with the fundamental rights to respect for private life and to the protection of personal data. The government has claimed that other aspects of the Bill will strengthen oversight and transparency. For example, they claim it will restrict the number of public bodies that can request communications data. Yet this concession does not appear in DRIP or the secondary legislation that will implement it. There has been no acknowledgment of the legal requirement to preserve UK citizens’ right to privacy.  

Call the House of Commons on 0207 219 3000 and ask your MP to vote against this legislation.

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: Electronic Voting: An idea whose time has come to go away-->
  • April 05: ORG Glasgow: A discussion of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
  • March 29: ORG Aberdeen: March Cryptonoise event
  • ORG North East: Take control of your online life
  • ORG Cambridge: Monthly March Meetup