Press releases

Press releases


ORG responds to annual report of the Interception of Communications Commissioner (IOCCO)

Responding to today’s publication of the 2016 annual report of the outgoing Interception of Communications Commissioner (IOCCO), the Open Rights Group highlighted a number of issues.

Over 750,000 requests for items of communications data were approved in 2016, each involving up to a year of records.

Significant concerns are raised about errors when public authorities try to connect internet activities to specific individuals, which in some cases has led to innocent people being wrongly accused of extremely serious offences. The report also raises questions over the threshold for notification to affected individuals only covering cases where there is significant prejudice or harm.

Javier Ruiz, Policy Director of the Open Rights Group said:

“We share the report’s concern over errors in internet surveillance, and agree that a change of mindset is required, away from the assumption that technical intelligence is always correct. Individuals affected should always be notified, as police are not best placed to determine the harms caused by their mistakes.”

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Javier Ruiz can be contacted on 07877911412

javier@openrightsgroup.org

The IOCCO  report can be viewed here:https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/report-of-the-interception-of-communications-commissioner-annual-report-2016

 

 

 

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Open Rights Group respond to news BBFC proposed as Age Verification regulator

Responding to the news that the BBFC are in line to be appointed Age Verification regulator, Jim Killock Executive Director of the Open Rights Group said:

“The BBFC will struggle to ensure that Age Verification is safe, secure and anonymous. They are powerless to ensure people's privacy.

“The major publisher, MindGeek, looks like it will dominate the AV market. We are very worried about their product, AgeID, which could track people's porn use. The way this product develops is completely out of BBFC’s hands.

“Users will not be able to choose how to access websites. They’ll be at the mercy of porn companies. And the blame lies squarely with Theresa May's government for pushing incomplete legislation.”

Killock also warned that censorship of porn sites could quickly spiral into hundreds or thousands of sites.

“While BBFC say they will only block a few large sites that don’t use AV, there are tens of thousands of porn sites. Once MPs work out that AV is failing to make porn inaccessible, some will demand that more and more sites are blocked. BBFC will be pushed to block ever larger numbers of websites.”

More information

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/bbfc-proposed-to-enforce-age-verification-of-online-pornography

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Theresa May told to make Mark Zuckerberg a national censor

Reacting to Theresa May’s proposal to make social media companies liable for content, Jim Killock, Executive Director of Open Rights Group said:

“This is an attempt to make Mark Zuckerberg a national censor.

“Facebook and Twitter will censor legal material because they are scared of fines. They are the worst people to judge right and wrong. Theresa May is in danger of removing people’s right to a proper legal decision.”

Notes for the Editor

See https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/prosecute-web-giants-for-abuse-may-urged-xjqjw3rh6

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Open Rights Group and the3million tell Government immigration exemption must be removed

Open Rights Group, the digital rights campaigning organisation and the3million, the largest grassroots organisation of EU citizens in the UK, have joined together to call on the Government to stop their proposal to remove the fundamental right to data protection for the 3 million EU citizens living in the United Kingdom.

The Government’s proposals found in the Data Protection Bill would remove the right of individuals subject to an immigration procedure to discover what personal data companies and public authorities hold on them. The House of Lords will vote on the Bill next week on 11 or 13 December to decide whether to remove the proposed exemption.

The sweeping exemption would prevent people from being able to challenge Home Office errors, which are common in immigration cases - the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration reports mistakes in 1 in 10 cases.

The exemption is much broader than just data held by the Home Office, covering any organisation processing information that is used in relation to immigration controls. The current immigration regime extends the responsibility to control immigration to schools, GPs, hospitals, landlords, employers, and even the DVLA. The exemption would create a two-tier system in how these institutions handle people’s data based on their immigration status. 

Currently there is an obligation on public authorities and companies to process personal data lawfully, fairly and in a transparent manner. This obligation would no longer apply in relation to immigrants, should this exemption pass. 

Jim Killock, Open Rights Group said:

“People need to know how they are being judged, and what information is being used in their immigration and residency claims. With the imminent need for millions of current UK residents needing to prove their right to remain, barring them from seeing the emails, forms, claims and assessments that may lead up to a decision is a recipe for disaster. It could make the residency rights being offered to EU citizens in the Brexit negotiations meaningless if the Home Office makes a mistake in your claim.”

Nicolas Hatton of the3million said:

"This new immigration exemption will mean that EU citizens living in the UK on Brexit day will have less access to their personal data than UK citizens. The UK government has proposed setting up a new registration system for EU citizens after the UK leaves the EU, and this will potentially create a database with the personal details of over three million people. We need safeguards in place to ensure that these citizens have access to the information held about them, so they are able to appeal Home Office decisions or correct mistakes. 

Everyone should be entitled to know how the Home Office and other government agencies are using their records, and that is why we want this exemption removed."

Notes for editors

https://www.openrightsgroup.org/ourwork/reports/joint-briefing:-immigration-exemptions-in-the-data-protection-bill-need-to-be-removed

2 A similar blanket exemption was put forward by the Home Office in 1983, when it was rejected for being “a palpable fraud on the public”.

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Nadine Dorries admits to unlawful data privacy in her offices

Nadine Dorries admits to data insecurity within her Parliamentary office

Reacting to Nadine Dorries’ admission on Twitter that she routinely gives access to her personal Parliamentary accounts to interns, Jim Killock said:

“On the face of it, Nadine Dorries is admitting to breaching basic data protection laws, making sure her constituents’ emails and correspondence is kept confidential and secure. She should not be sharing her log in with interns.

“More worryingly, it appears this practices of MPs sharing their log ins may be rather widespread. If so, we need to know.

“We are urging MPs staff and former staff to get in touch with us if they have knowledge about insecure data practices in MPs’ offices. Once we know more, we will consider complaining to the Information Commissioner and Parliamentary authorities.”

Contact ORG

Notes:

Nadine Dorries tweet: https://twitter.com/NadineDorries/status/937019367572803590

My staff log onto my computer on my desk with my login everyday. Including interns on exchange programmes. For the officer on @BBCNews just now to claim that the computer on Greens desk was accessed and therefore it was Green is utterly preposterous !!

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ORG Responds to Government's proposed changes to the Investigatory Powers Act

Investigatory Powers Act 2016 Consultation on the Government’s proposed response to the ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union

Jim Killock, Executive Director of Open Rights Group said:

"The government has evaded the main point of the Watson judgment: they cannot keep data on a blanket basis.

"Without narrowing what they keep to specific places, incidents or investigations, these changes will not meet the standards set by the courts.

"Combined with the so-called Request Filter, which could be a power for a police search engine for retained data, this will remain an incredibly intrusive surveillance power, unparalleled in democratic countries.”

Notes for the editor

Following a judgement by the Court of Justice of the European Union setting out the requirements for data retention schemes to be considered compliant with EU law, the Government has opened a consulation on a proposed a series of changes in an attempt to ensure UK law is brought in to line.

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Give us the right to defend the elderly and children’s privacy, say campaigners

Government was told that vulnerable consumers need independent protection by a group of campaigners in a letter to the Minister of State for Digital, Matt Hancock, today

Campaigners asked for the right for organisations to seek redress directly, when personal data is abused, without having to seek out individual complainants.

This could be hard when the victims are young, old, or simply not aware of the problem.

As the Bill stands, individuals will be able to take up their own cases but in many cases that might require more time or technical knowledge than most people possess. The current system does not allow organisations, such as consumer protection agency Which?, to follow up on flaws it uncovers.

The option for consumer organisations to be allowed to make independent complaints exists under Article 80(2) of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The letter to Matt Hackcock says:

“Article 80(1)...is inadequate on it’s own in holding organisations to account. Further, given the potential scale of data breaches and the breach notification duty, a mechanism under Article 80(2) would save significant administrative and court time.

“It is time for the Government to do the right thing...This would give consumers the voice they deserve when holding companies to account for loss of data.”

“The young, the elderly and people who simply don’t know their data has been abused will be defenceless without this change,” said Jim Killock Executive Director of the Open Rights Group.

“The government says it wants to protect people’s privacy, so it should give consumer organisations the tools to do the job.”

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Notes for the editor

This is an amendment which has been submitted to the Data Protection Bill referring to the General Data Protection Regulation that comes into full force on the 25th May 2018.

Read the letter here

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ORG responds to Prince William's comments about danger of anonymity online

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

"Anonymity online can be very important, for instance for whistleblowers, journalists and people seeking to read banned information where facts and opinions are censored.

“Without anonymity there would be no Paradise Papers. I’m sure Prince William did not mean to suggest that we should undermine the right to know about the excesses of the super rich and the corrupt, but that needs to be understood when we think about how and when anonymity is necessary."

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When speaking in a video for the Royal Foundation's Taskforce on the Prevention of Cyberbullying, talking to two people both of whom have suffered because of online abuse, Prince William said "We are still responsible for our own actions online. This anonymity [...] is really, really dangerous."

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UK NGOs CHALLENGE UK GOVERNMENT SURVEILLANCE AT THE EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS

On Tuesday 7 November, three joined cases brought by civil liberties and human rights organisations challenging UK Government surveillance will be heard in the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).

Big Brother Watch and Others v UK will be heard alongside 10 Human Rights Organisations and Others v UK and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and Alice Ross v UK, four years after the initial application to the ECtHR.

Big Brother Watch, English PEN, Open Rights Group and Dr Constanze Kurz made their application to the Court in 2013 following Edward Snowden’s revelations that UK intelligence agencies were running a mass surveillance and bulk communications interception programme, TEMPORA, as well as receiving data from similar US programmes, PRISM and UPSTREAM, interfering with UK citizens’ right to privacy.

The case questions the legality of the indiscriminate surveillance of UK citizens and the bulk collection of their personal information and communications by UK intelligence agencies under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA). The UK surveillance regime under RIPA was untargeted, meaning that UK citizens’ personal communications and information was collected at random without any element of suspicion or evidence of wrongdoing, and this regime was effective indefinitely.

The surveillance regime is being challenged on the grounds that there was no sufficient legal basis, no accountability, and no adequate oversight of these programmes, and as a result infringed UK citizens’ Article 8 right to a private life.

In 2014, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism made an application to the ECtHR, followed by 10 Human Rights Organisations and others in 2015 after they received a judgment from the UK Investigatory Powers Tribunal. All three cases were joined together, and the Court exceptionally decided that there would be a hearing.

The result of these three cases has the potential to impact the current UK surveillance regime under the Investigatory Powers Act. This legal framework has already been strongly criticized by the Court of Justice of the European Union in Watson.  A favourable judgment in this case will finally push the UK Government to constrain these wide-ranging surveillance powers, implement greater judicial control and introduce greater protection such as notifying citizens that they have been put under surveillance.

Daniel Carey of Deighton Pierce Glynn, solicitor for Big Brother Watch, Open Rights Group, English PEN and Constanze Kurz, said:

“Historically, it has required a ruling from this Court before improvements in domestic law in this area are made. Edward Snowden broke that cycle by setting in motion last year’s Investigatory Power Act, but my clients are asking the Court to limit bulk interception powers in a much more meaningful way and to require significant improvements in how such intrusive powers are controlled and reported.”

Griff Ferris, Researcher at Big Brother Watch, said:

“This case raises long-standing issues relating to the UK Government’s unwarranted intrusion into people’s private lives, giving the intelligence agencies free reign to indiscriminately intercept and monitor people’s private communications without evidence or suspicion.

“UK citizens who are not suspected of any wrongdoing should be able to live their lives in both the physical and the digital world safely and securely without such Government intrusion.

“If the Court finds that the UK Government infringed UK citizens’ right to privacy, this should put further pressure on the Government to implement measures to ensure that its current surveillance regime doesn’t make the same mistakes.”

Antonia Byatt, Interim Director of English PEN, said:

“More than four years since Edward Snowden's revelations and nearly one year since the Investigatory Powers Act was passed, this is a landmark hearing that seeks to safeguard our privacy and our right to freedom of expression.

“The UK now has the most repressive surveillance legislation of any western democracy, this is a vital opportunity to challenge the unprecedented erosion of our private lives and liberty to communicate.”

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

“Mass surveillance must end. Our democratic values are threatened by the fact of pervasive, constant state surveillance. This case gives the court the opportunity to rein it back, and to show the British Government that there are clear limits. Hoovering everything up and failing to explain what you are doing is not acceptable."

 

Notes to editors:

The ECtHR links to the three cases, listed on 7 November 2017 can be found here:http://www.echr.coe.int/Pages/home.aspx?p=hearings/calendar&c=#n1353927184398_pointer

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Met police refuse to reveal extremism statistics

The Metropolitan Police have refused to release a list of statistics about online extremist takedowns, following an FoI request from the Open Rights Group.

The Met reiterated their previous information that: "Since 2010, 270,000 pieces of illegal terrorist material have been removed by social media providers, following referrals from the Counter-Terrorism Internet Referral Unit."

However, they declined to list any other statistics, stating that "disclosure of the requested information would be likely to prejudice the prevention or detection of crime”.

Jim Killock, Executive Director of the Open Rights Group said: “This is ridiculous. There will be plenty of statistics, where we know that the CTIRU work with certain platforms or must review their own work. This would include error rates, decline rates, numbers of takedown by platform.

“Other statistics would include media performance. They may try to calculate crime prevention or the number of views of content they have prevented.

“To claim that making any of these available would constitute a threat to national security or detection of crime is preposterous.

“Worse, we are about to debate the Digital Charter where Parliament and the public will be expected to accept harsher penalties for platforms who don’t immediately remove material like this.

“If we are going to have a sensible debate about more censorship powers, then we need to know how current police operations are working.”

Contact

Jim Killock Executive Director jim@openrightsgroup.org

More information

The full FoI is available at: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/ctiru_statistical_records_impact#incoming-1058670

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