Press releases

Press releases


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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eBay must stop Epson’s patent abuse

Open Rights Group is challenging eBay to stop allowing Epson and other companies from removing eBay listings by merely alleging patent infringement.

Epson are engaging in a campaign to stop resellers from stocking certain Epson-compatible ink cartridges, alleging patent infringements. No manufacturer has been taken to court, and no court judgment exists to date.

eBay allow Epson and other trusted manufacturers to remove listings under their VeRO programme, but appear to only allow patent violations as a reason for a trusted takedown in Europe.

Open Rights Group Policy Officer Slavka Bielikova said:

“Ebay have previously stated that removing listings on the grounds of patent infringement should only be done with a court order. Yet in this case, they have allowed Epson to remove eBay listings on their say-so.

“We are also very worried about the patent claim itself. Companies should not be able to use patents to prevent components and compatible products from being connected to their proprietary hardware. If this was allowed it could damage the manufacture of compatible car parts and other very important third party products.”

Adrian Meakin owner of Ink Squid and one of the companies affected said: 

“Ebay should not be removing listings without a court order. They are allowing Epson to target compatible cartridge resellers and damage small businesses like mine without any real evidence that anything wrong has been done.

“My customers and my business deserve better treatment from eBay. Just because Epson are a big company doesn’t mean they are entitled to bully competitors with eBay’s help.”

eBay stated in relation to US patent claims:

“eBay has a policy to quickly remove listings when a NOCI [Notice of Claimed Infringement] provides a court order, but eBay rarely removes listings based on mere allegations of infringement. eBay has two reasons for this policy. First, eBay believes that removing listings based on allegations of infringement would be unfair to buyers and the accused sellers. Such a policy, in eBay’s view, would give too much power to unscrupulous patent holders. The second reason eBay has adopted its policy is because it lacks the expertise to construe the patent infringement claims submitted to it and cannot assess the claims when it never possess the products.”

https://arstechnica.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/ebay.blazer.opinion.pdf

For more information contact: press@openrightsgroup.org

More information

Epson are alleging that certain compatible ink cartridges infringe their patents GB2433473 and amendment GB2465293. The alleged infringement concerns the alignment of chip contacts on their cartridges. So far, we know Epson have issued takedowns against compatible cartridges T16 XL; T18 XL; T24 XL; T26 XL; T27 XL; T29 XL; T33 XL plus T0715 XL; T0797 XL; T0807 XL.

https://www.openrightsgroup.org/blog/2017/epson-delete-ebay-listings-citing-patent-claims

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ORG responds to Amber Rudd’s calls to criminalise viewing of extremist content

Jim Killock reacted to Amber Rudd’s calls to criminalise viewing of extremist content.

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

“This is incredibly dangerous. Journalists, anti-terror campaigns and others may need to view extremist content, regularly and frequently.

“People tempted towards extremism may fear discussing what they have read or seen with anyone in authority. Even potential informants may be dissuaded from coming forward because they are already criminalised.”

On encryption, he said:

“Amber Rudd needs to be realistic and clear about what she wants. It is no better saying she wishes to deny criminals the use of encryption than to say she wishes to deny them access to gravity. And if she succeeds in pushing them off major platforms, terrorists may end up being harder to detect.”

For more information, contact: press@openrightsgroup.org

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Comment on Vulnerable Person's Database from Scotland Director Matthew Rice

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Scotland Director, Matthew Rice said:

“Police Scotland’s attempt to fix a problem has created another headache. Without informing or seeking people’s consent they have created a database of over 400,000 individuals that they have labelled as vulnerable, nearly 1 in 10 people. Once on there, there is no way of getting off. This is a sorry state of affairs.”

“There is no accusation of malice here, but you don’t need to be malicious to undermine people’s right to privacy. Police Scotland have gone about removing the autonomy and dignity of those on this database while trying to support them.”

“The Information Commissioner has notified them that the Vulnerable Persons Database is in breach of the Data Protection Act by not having any retention or deletion policy. But fixing that policy gap will not respond to the wider problem of people being unaware they are on this database in the first place.”

“If Police Scotland were serious about making this database fit for purpose, they would give people who find themselves on it the opportunity to request removal. To do that, they first need to notify the 400,000 plus people that they are on the Vulnerable Person’s Database and seek their consent for them to remain on it. There may be circumstances in which people should remain on this database, that genuinely meet the threshold of a vulnerable person, the police should make that assessment after receiving the replies.”

“But first, Police Scotland need to start communicating to those on the database. At this stage, this is the least they can do to begin to give back some of the agency they have taken from members of the public.”

Notes to Editors

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The BBC exclusively revealed that 400,000 people had been placed on the Vulnerable Person’s Database.  

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-41335762

The Information Commissioner said the database breached the Data Protection Act because it lacked an information removal policy.

Many people were not told that they had been put on the system.

The system involves collating disparate pieces of information about a particular vulnerable individual into a single file- allowing officers to build a narrative about that person.

At a supervisor’s discretion, the file can be shared with other government bodies - for example, health, social work or education - so that the person receives support.

There is no equivalent database in England and Wales.

 

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Org response to conviction of Cage Director for terror offences

ORG has responded to the conviction of Cage Director Muhammad Rabbani, who was found guilty of terror offences for refusing to hand over passwords to the police at Heathrow airport.

Executive Director, Jim Killock said:

“These powers are blanket and do not require suspicion. They have been employed against journalists and others to compel them to provide information which could breach professional privilege and confidentiality.

“If Muhammad Rabbani is suspected of a crime, there are separate routes under RIPA which can be employed, which at least require a genuine reason to be specified before they are investigated.”

Rabbani was found guilty under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act.

For more information, contact press@openrightsgroup.org

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ORG response to calls for automated takedowns of online extremist content

ORG has issued a response to the Government’s call for Internet companies to do more to automatically detect and remove extremist content online.

Jim Killock, Executive Director of Open Rights Group said:

“Internet companies have a role to play in removing illegal content from their platforms but we need to recognise the limitations of relying on automated takedowns. Mistakes will inevitably be made – by removing the wrong content and by missing extremist material.

“Given the global reach of these companies, automated takedowns will have a wide-reaching effect on the content we see, although not necessarily on the spread of extremist ideas as terrorists will switch to using other platforms.”

“There needs to be transparency about where takedown requests come from and what is being taken down automatically; there also need to be clear routes for appeal when mistakes are made.”

“There are also wider implications. This move by the British, French and Italian Governments could also be used to justify the actions of authoritarian regimes, such as China, Saudi Arabia and Iran, who want companies to remove content that they find disagreeable.”

For more information, email press@openrightsgroup.org

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Data Protection Bill must give privacy groups right to lodge complaints

Open Rights Group has responded to the publication of the Data Protection Bill, which put the provisions of the General Data Protection Regulation into UK law.

ORG welcomes the Bill, which will improve our ability to control how data is collected and used. However, the Government has failed to enact all of the options outlined in the GDPR.

Executive Director Jim Killock said:

“The UK has neglected an important option in the General Data Protection Regulation, which gives consumer privacy groups like Open Rights Group the ability to lodge independent data protection complaints.

"It is almost impossible for the average person to know how their data is being collected, shared and sold by social media platforms, advertisers and other businesses. We may not know which companies hold data about us. Privacy groups can therefore play an important role in protecting consumers by taking independent action against companies that fail to protect our data protection rights.”

“Open Rights Group wants to be able to campaign on behalf of people who are afraid of complaining or do not realised that they have been affected.”

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ORG response to CPS announcement on social media hate crime

ORG has responded to the announcement by the CPS that they will treat online hate crime as seriously as offline offences.

Legal Director, Myles Jackman said:

“It is quite right that people who hide behind social media to commit hate crime should be held accountable for their actions by the criminal justice system and clearly, internet companies should not be left to ‘police’ online speech.

However, some offences employ highly subjective terms like “grossly offensive” and “obscene” which could have a severe chilling effect on the more unpalatable but legitimate areas of free speech, if interpreted strictly.

Finally, Alison Saunders’ avowed intent to crack down on hate crime on social media may be significantly hampered by Kier Starmer’s High Evidential Threshold Test which was specifically designed to reduce the number of cases that actually reached Court”.

For more information, contact: press@openrightsgroup.org

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