Press releases

Press releases


Open Rights Group victory in Supreme Court web blocking challenge

The Supreme Court has today ruled that trade mark holders are not able to compel Internet service providers to bear the cost of implementing orders to block websites selling counterfeit goods.

Jim, Alex and Myles at the Supreme CourtOpen Rights Group acted as an intervener in this case. We argued that Internet service providers (ISPs) as innocent parties should not bear the costs of website blocking, and that this was a long-standing principle of English law.

Jim Killock, Executive Director of Open Rights Group said:

“This case is important because if ISPs paid the costs of blocking websites, the result would be an increasing number of blocks for relatively trivial reasons and the costs would be passed to customers.

“While rights holders may want websites blocked, it needs to be economically rational to ask for this.”

Solicitor in the case David Allen Green said:

"I am delighted to have acted, through my firm Preiskel, successfully for the Open Rights Group in their intervention.

"We intervened to say that those enforcing private rights on internet should bear the costs of doing so, not others. This morning, the UK Supreme Court held unanimously that the rights holders should bear the costs."

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Nearly 40% of court order blocks are in error, ORG finds

Open Rights Group today released figures that show that High Court injunctions are being improperly administrated by ISPs and rights holders.

A new tool added to its blocked.org.uk project examines over 1,000 domains blocked under the UK’s 30 injunctions against over 150 services,

ORG found 37% of those domains are blocked in error, or without any legal basis. The majority of the domains blocked are parked domains, or no longer used by infringing services.  One Sci-Hub domain is blocked without an injunction, and a likely trademark infringing site, is also blocked without an injunction.

However, the list of blocked domains is believed to be around 2,500 domains, and is not made public, so ORG are unable to check for all possible mistakes.

Jim Killock, Executive Director of Open Rights Group said:

“It is not acceptable for a legal process to result in nearly 40% maladministration. These results show a great deal of carelessness.

“We expect ISPs and rights holders to examine our results and remove the errors we have found as swiftly as possible.

“We want ISPs to immediately release lists of previously blocked domains, so we can check blocks are being removed by everyone.

“Rights holders must make public exactly what is being blocked, so we can be ascertain how else these extremely wide legal powers are being applied."

ORG’s conclusions are: 

  1. The administration process of adding and subtracting domains to be blocked is very poor
  2. Keeping the lists secret makes it impossible to check errors
  3. Getting mistakes corrected is opaque. The ISP pages suggest you go to court.

Examples

Some are potential subject to an injunction, which has not been sought, for instance:
 
 
One directs to a personal blog: 

http://kat.kleisauke.nl 

Full results and statistical breakdowns 

https://www.blocked.org.uk/legal-blocks/errors 

Export full results

https://www.blocked.org.uk/legal-blocks 

For a list of UK injunctions, see: 

The UK has 30 copyright and trademark injunctions, blocking over 150 websites. 

https://wiki.451unavailable.org.uk/wiki/Main_Page

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Rights groups to take Government to court over shocking immigration exemption

Today the House of Commons is likely to pass a Data Protection Bill. The Bill includes an immigration exemption that denies people access to their data exactly when they need it the most. The Open Rights Group and the3million are launching a legal challenge to force the Government to remove this exemption, and are asking for support to fund this claim.

This exemption will affect everyone involved in an immigration case, for example: those seeking refuge in the UK, those affected by the Windrush scandal, the three million EU citizens who will have to submit their applications for a new immigration status after Brexit. If this Bill becomes law, people won’t have the right to access their personal data held by the Home Office.

According to the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, the Home Office has a ten percent error rate in immigration status checks. This exemption would allow these mistakes to go unchallenged. These errors could lead to an application being refused or even deportation. 

We are asking people to pledge to support our legal case against the Government so everyone can have equal access to their data and properly access justice. 

To support our legal challenge we are fundraising via Crowdjustice:

www.crowdjustice.com/case/immigrationexemption

Jim Killock Executive Director of Open Rights Group said 

“People will need their personal records to prove that they are entitled to live in the UK. This is a matter of natural justice. Using medical and educational records to trawl for potential suspects is equally worrying, as the government seeks to surveil the population in every way it finds convenient. Mistakes will be made, and lives disrupted or worse.” 

Co-founder of the3million Nicolas Hatton said: 

"The Data Protection Bill is supposed to be about giving people greater control over their data, but it contains an exemption for immigration cases that does exactly the opposite. Everyone should be entitled to know how the Home Office and other government agencies are using their records, and that is why the3million support removing this shocking exemption." 

Rosa Curling, a human rights solicitor from law firm Leigh Day who are acting on behalf of the3million and ORG, said:

 “The immigration exemption creates a discriminatory two-tier system for data protection rights. The clause is incompatible with GDPR, as well as EU law generally and the European Convention on Human Rights. If the exemption is made law, our clients will apply for judicial review. They have spent months trying to persuade the government to remove the exemption from the bill. If they continue to refuse, our clients will have no option but to request the court’s intervention in this matter.”

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Age Verification pushed back

The deadline for the implementation of the Government’s potentially disastrous Age Verification scheme has officially been pushed back to ‘before the end of the year’.

The deadline for the implementation of the Government’s potentially disastrous Age Verification scheme has officially been pushed back to ‘before the end of the year’.

Whilst we welcome the delay, Age Verification remains a huge threat to privacy for millions across the UK.

Myles Jackman, ORG’s legal director said:

“This is a chance for the government to rethink the absence of safeguards for privacy and security, but it is frightening to consider that this policy was two weeks away from launch before it was pulled.

“Matt Hancock needs to introduce powers to safeguard privacy immediately before this scheme causes real damage.”

Notes to Editors

The announcement can be found in this press release: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/25m-for-5g-projects-on-the-anniversary-of-the-uks-digital-strategy (ctrl+f - BBFC)

For more information and to contact the Open Right Group, please contact Caitlin Bishop at: caitlin@openrightsgroup.org or on: 0207 0961079 

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Government Warned Legal Action Coming if Immigration Exemption Enacted

Formal legal action has been launched against the UK Government today over the inclusion of a specific clause in the new Data Protection Bill which means at least three million people across the country would be unable to find out what personal data the Home Office or other related organisations hold on them under a clause the government claims is needed for ‘effective immigration control’.

Formal legal action has been launched against the UK Government today over the inclusion of a specific clause in the new Data Protection Bill which means at least three million people across the country would be unable to find out what personal data the Home Office or other related organisations hold on them under a clause the government claims is needed for ‘effective immigration control’.

Lawyers from Leigh Day, who are acting on behalf of the3million the largest grassroots organisation of EU citizens living in the UK and the Open Rights Group (ORG) the UK's only digital campaigning organisation working to protect the rights to privacy and free speech online have written to Home Secretary Amber Rudd outlining their concerns and asking for the clause to be removed from the bill.

The3million and ORG are very concerned by the proposed inclusion of the exemption clause, which if it remains, would represent the first time that an immigration exemption has been included in UK data protection laws.

Both groups argue the exemption clause is incompatible with the principles of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which the bill is designed to implement. Leigh Day’s clients believe the bill, which is intended to strengthen people’s data rights, will have the opposite effect and will create a discriminatory twotier system.

The bill is due to be heard in the House of Commons today.

ORG and the the3million are calling on those who support the campaign to write to their MPs, using the form at openrightsgroup.org, to tell them that the immigration exemption must go.

Rosa Curling, a human rights solicitor from law firm Leigh Day who are acting on behalf of the3million and ORG, said:

“The immigration exemption creates a discriminatory twotier system for data protection rights. The clause is incompatible with GDPR, as well as EU law generally and the European Convention on Human Rights. If the exemption is made law, our clients will apply for judicial review. They have written to the government today to urge it to reconsider and to remove the immigration exemption from the bill without further delay.”

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

"This is an attempt to disguise the Home Office's mistakes by making sure that their errors are never found. When people are wrongly told to leave, they would find it very hard to challenge.

"Data protection is a basic safeguard to make sure you can find out what organisations know about you, and why they make decisions. Sometimes, during criminal investigations, that isn't appropriate: but immigrants aren't criminals, nor should they be treated as such."

Nicolas Hatton, Chairman of the3million, said:

"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 to editors:

We would be grateful if you could include a hyperlink to the online form to contact your MP in any online coverage.

For more information or to talk to the solicitor leading the case please contact Neil Wardley, PR Manager of Leigh Day, on: 07775 713725 or email nwardley@leighday.co.uk.

For more information or to talk to a member of the3million please contact Maike Bohn, Director of Communications, on 07967 627808 or email maike.bohn@the3million.org.uk.

For more information and to contact the Open Rights Group, please contact Caitlin Bishop at: caitlin@openrightsgroup.org or on: 020 7096 1079.

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Open Rights Group respond to court ruling that government surveillance regime unlawful

“Once again, another UK court has found another piece of Government surveillance legislation to be unlawful. The Government needs to admit their legislation is flawed and make the necessary changes to the Investigatory Powers Act to protect the public’s fundamental rights.”

“The Investigatory Powers Act carves a gaping hole in the public’s rights. Public bodies able to access data without proper oversight, and access to that data for reasons other than fighting serious crime. These practices must stop, the courts have now confirmed it. The ball is firmly in the Government’s court to set it right.”

- Matthew Rice, Open Rights Group

 NOTES FOR EDITORS

The Court of Appeal have today announced that, as expected, the mass retention of public data was unlawful. Allowing for public bodies to access retained data without proper oversight, and to do so for reasons other than fighting serious crime is inconsistent with EU law.

Court of appeal ruling

The Open Rights Group intervened in the case in 2014 and have been acknowledged by the Blackstone’s Guide to the IPA Act 2016 as an important factor in the case.

Government consultation

Government consultation response

The case was based on the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (2014) which was replaced by the Investigatory Powers Act in 2016. Whilst DRIPA itself is no longer in force the court of appeal ruling demonstrates the fundamental flaws in the current legislation. The government opened a consultation on the current legislation recently, ceding that independent authorisation was a necessary update, but refusing to engage with our serious concerns in regards to mass retention of data. This ruling is vindication of our position that this retention needs to stop. 

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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.”

––

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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