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Press releases

Press releases

November 04, 2015 | Pam Cowburn

ORG response to the draft Investigatory Powers Bill

ORG has responded to the publication of the UK's proposed new surveillance law, the draft Investigatory Powers Bill.

Executive Director of Open Rights Group, Jim Killock said:

 “This Bill will redefine the relationship between the state and the public for a generation. The government needs to get it right and made sure that the UK's law enforcement and security agencies can fight serious crime while upholding all of our human rights.”

“However, at first glance, it appears that this Bill is an attempt to grab even more intrusive surveillance powers and does not do enough to restrain the bulk collection of our personal data by the secret services. It proposes an increase in the blanket retention of our personal communications data, giving the police the power to access web logs. It also gives the state intrusive hacking powers that can carry risks for everyone's Internet security.”

“The Joint Committee must now listen to the concerns of activists and the public if they are to restore trust in the police and security services.”

Open Rights Group will now scrutinise the Bill in detail.

[Read more]

October 28, 2015 | Pam Cowburn

ORG response to David Cameron's call for web filter law

ORG has responded to the Prime Minister's calls for legislation that will implement filters for adult content. This follows the European's Parliament vote for net neutrality regulations, which will ban the current voluntary agreement made between ISPs and the government to provide filters, which some providers switch on by default.

Jim Killock, Executive Director of Open Rights Group (ORG) said:

“We welcome the opportunity to have a debate about filters, which are flawed, censor websites and do not necessarily keep children safe online.

“Customers should be given the choice to opt-in to filters, they should not be switched on by default. Parents also need to be made aware that filters may overblock sites that are suitable for children and also fail to block sites that are inappropriate.

"However, we welcome Cameron's call for legislation so that at least we can challenge this dreadful idea.”

ORG has developed a tool at which monitors blocking by filters. At its launch, we found that 1 in 5 websites were blocked by parental controls. Sites that have been blocked include small businesses as well as charities and education sites that are specifically aimed at young people.

ORG has also created a satirical film about filters called the Department of Dirty.

[Read more]

October 27, 2015 | Ed Johnson-Williams

EU Parliament adopts highly ambiguous Net Neutrality legislation

The European Parliament has voted to adopt the Telecoms Single Market (TSM) regulation. The regulation was supposed to guarantee net neutrality in Europe.

Unfortunately, MEPs have created large loopholes and left ambiguity in much of the legislation. Net neutrality is the principle whereby Internet access providers treat internet traffic equally. Because of the vagueness of the new regulations, telecoms regulators in EU Member States will now have to decide whether telecoms companies in their country will be able to prioritise different categories of data.

Jim Killock of UK digital rights organisation Open Rights Group said,

"MEPs have passed the buck on net neutrality. They have voted for an unclear and ambiguous piece of net neutrality legislation that fails to mention net neutrality. It is now up to national telecoms regulators to decide whether all our Internet traffic should be treated equally or whether rich companies will be able to outbid their smaller competitors for faster delivery of their services."

The vote comes after two years of negotiations between the EU Parliament, Council, and Commission.

[Read more]

October 14, 2015 | Pam Cowburn

IPT ruling on Wilson doctrine opens way for devolved parliament and assemblies to challenge surveillance

The Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) has ruled that the Wilson Doctrine does not protect MPs and peers' communications from surveillance by the intelligence agencies.

In response, Open Rights Group's Executive Director, Jim Killock said:

“Bulk interception means that everyone's personal communications data can be collected. Now that our MPs and peers know that they don't get special protection through the Wilson Doctrine, we hope that they will fight for an end to indiscriminate surveillance.”

The IPT ruled that parliamentarians' communications are protected by the same law that protects UK's citizens' communications – the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA). The Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, David Anderson QC, has described the UK's surveillance law as “fragmented, obscure, under constant challenge and variable in the protections that it affords the innocent”.

Devolved parliament and assemblies

In July, it was reported that the latest update to GCHQ's internal policy removed protections for members of the Scottish parliament and the Northern Irish and Welsh assemblies.

Killock added: “We believe that today's ruling opens the way for members of the devolved parliament and assemblies in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales to ask the IPT whether they have been under surveillance and if so whether this was justified.”

[Read more]

October 06, 2015 | Pam Cowburn

Open Rights Group welcomes CJEU Safe Harbor ruling

Open Rights Group welcomes today’s decision by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) that the Safe Harbor agreement is invalid.

Executive Director, Jim Killock said: 

“In the face of the Snowden revelations, it is clear that Safe Harbor is not worth the paper its written on. We need a new agreement that will protect EU citizens from mass surveillance by the NSA.”

Privacy activist Max Schrems initially brought a case against Facebook in Ireland, arguing that US companies were passing data to the NSA, and therefore violating his privacy. The Irish Data Protection Commissioner rejected the case on the grounds that the Safe Harbour agreement made provisions to protect the transfer of data. Schrems appealed the decision and today the CJEU found that Safe Harbor is invalid.

For interviews, contact: Pam Cowburn

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September 17, 2015 | Pam Cowburn

Dropping Privacy and Civil Liberties Board highlights need for judicial authorisation

Open Rights Group has responded to the announcement in today's Terrorism Acts report that plans for a Privacy and Civil Liberties Board have been dropped.

Policy Director, Javier Ruiz said:

"While Open Rights Group did not feel the proposals for a Privacy and Civil Liberties Board went far enough, its removal highlights the need for more, not less, input from civil society on the reform of surveillance oversight.  ORG is calling for prior authorisation of surveillance decisions by judges, not limited reviews after the event."

The Privacy and Civil Liberties Board was proposed in July 2014 as one of the concessions for the fast-tracking of the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act through Parliament.

The Terrorism Acts report is available here.

[Read more]

September 02, 2015 | Jim Killock

HIV clinic data breach

Noting the release of hundreds of the 56 Dean Street HIV clinic patients’ names and emails Jim Killock, Executive Director of the Open Rights Group said:

“Incidents like this are all too common and harmful. Organisations need to understand and manage their risks much better. 

“The ICO needs to properly enforce the law. Data breaches create victims and risks that are often impossible to control, once they have occurred.

“EU needs to finish its work on data protection so that better enforcement and fines of 2% of turnover make this a board room issue for every organisation."


[Read more]

August 06, 2015 | Pam Cowburn

10 years for copyright infringement should be limited to criminals causing serious harm

Open Rights Group (ORG) has responded to an Intellectual Property Office (IPO) consultation on proposals to increase the maximum prison sentence for criminal online copyright infringement to 10 years. The would bring sanctions for online copyright infringement in line with those for physical copyright infringement.

ORG agrees with the IPO that the online environment should not confer less protection for copyright holders. However, the IPO's proposals could mean that people who share links and files online without any financial gain could be punished more severely than criminals who commit physical theft, which has a maximum penalty of seven years.

Executive Director, Jim Killock said: 

“The key problem is that copyright infringement requires no ‘intent’ to harm. Someone who shares copyrighted files can face a criminal charge because of the apparent value of the copies shared. The value of share files is hard to estimate and can easily be exaggerated. This makes the criminal copyright offence very wide and could mean heavy-handed sentences for ordinary people and businesses.

“We are asking the IPO to narrow the criminal charge to businesses and people intending to cause serious harm. Ten years in jail is a very harsh punishment, which should be reserved for real criminals who are making financial gains from copyright infringement.”

More information is available here

ORG has created an online form to allow people to respond to the IPO consultation, which closes on August 17.

[Read more]

July 30, 2015 | Jim Killock

David Cameron calls to shut down porn sites without age-restricted controls

Open Rights Group has responded to David Cameron’s call to shut down porn sites that don’t have age-restricted controls.

Executive Director, Jim Killock said:

“While the government can shut down UK-based sites, these are few in number and represent a tiny proportion of the global porn industry. Cameron needs to clarify how he wishes to achieve his goals, given that most porn sites are hosted abroad. To block them, the government would have to introduce a national firewall, which would censor sites for everyone, and would likely be widely circumvented.

"While we understand the government’s concern about children accessing pornography, there are no simple tech solutions. We need to make sure that children are being educated by their parents and schools in how to navigate the web safely."

[Read more]

July 17, 2015 | Pam Cowburn

High Court rules that DRIPA is unlawful

Open Rights Group welcomes today's High Court Judgment that the key parts of the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014 (DRIPA) are inconsistent with European Union law.

ORG intervened in the successful judicial review brought by David Davis MP and Tom Watson MP, who were represented by Liberty. ORG emphasised the important EU legislation regulating the retention of communications data and the clear legal requirements laid down by the judgment of the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) in the Digital Rights Ireland case that struck down the Data Retention Directive.

ORG’s Executive Director Jim Killock said:

“When the Government forced DRIPA through Parliament a year ago, they denied our parliamentarians and the British public a proper debate about how our personal data is being kept by telecoms companies and accessed by the state.

“As many of us pointed out at the time, this was inconsistent with the findings of the CJEU that blanket data retention intruded on our right to privacy. Now that the High Court has agreed that DRIPA does not comply with EU law, we hope that the Government will listen to these concerns.

“In autumn, the Government will present the Investigatory Powers Bill to parliament. This should not be, as rumoured, an attempt by the Home Secretary to re-introduce the Snoopers' Charter, but an opportunity to introduce an effective surveillance law that is compatible with human rights.”

While ORG welcomes Lord Justice Bean and Mr Justice Collins’s judgment, we disagree with their intrepretation of the CJEU ruling. They claim that this ruling did not seek to constrain the retention of communications data. ORG disagrees. We believe that the CJEU was clear that blanket data retention severely interferes with the fundamental rights to respect for private life and to the protection of personal data.

The government is expected to lay a new Bill before Parliament in autumn 2015. It is believed that this Bill may call for an increase in the kinds of data that ISPs will be expected to keep about their customers, including weblogs. ORG believes that this would also be incompatible with EU law.

DRIPA will remain in force until the end of March 2016.

For more information, email or call 020 7096 1079.

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