Press releases

Press releases


July 06, 2016 | Pam Cowburn

Open Rights Group response to Digital Economy Bill

Yesterday, the Digital Economy Bill had its first reading in Parliament.

The Bill includes welcome proposals that mean UK homes and businesses have a right to access Broadband. However, the Bill also includes plans for data sharing between government departments and proposals for ten year sentences for online copyright infringement.

Executive Director of Open Rights Group, Jim Killock said:

“The Government is proposing that people who breach copyright online should receive up to ten years in prison to bring sentencing in line with physical copyright theft. Copyright needs to be protected but the proposals could mean that individuals who share or link to files could receive custodial sentences – even if they have not made any financial gain. This would be excessive and could mean that sharing a file online would lead to a greater custodial sentence than physical theft.”

Killock added:

“Other worrying parts of the Bill are proposals to make data sharing between government departments easier. While we understand the drive for greater efficiency, the Government needs to make a better case for why data sharing programmes are needed. It is misguided to think that social problems can be easily solved simply by making more data available to its departments. We need clarification about how safeguards to protect personal information, for example data about births and marriages, will be enforced.”

The Digital Economy Bill also includes proposals to compel adult sites to provide age verification to prevent under 18s from visiting their sites but it is still unclear how they propose to enact this.

For more information, contact pam@openrightsgroup.org

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June 27, 2016 | Pam Cowburn

Investigatory Powers Bill should be put on hold following Brexit fall out

Digital rights campaigners, the Open Rights Group have called on the Government to stop the progression of the Investigatory Powers Bill (IP Bill) through Parliament. The Bill will receive its second reading in the House of Lords this afternoon.

Executive Director, Jim Killock said:
“With the current political crisis, we cannot expect that such an important Bill, with far-reaching consequences, will receive the scrutiny it needs.

Until this crisis is resolved, and a new Prime Minister is in place, the IP Bill should be put on hold. The UK cannot legislate on matters of national security until its future is clear.”

The Investigatory Powers Bill is a proposed new surveillance law that will give unprecedented powers to the security services, police and government departments. It will replace other surveillance laws, including parts of the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIPA) and parts of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA). 

The powers included in the Bill will allow the bulk collection of communications data, the analysis of databases held by private and public companies, mass hacking of devices and networks and the collection of everyone’s web browsing history. There is more information about the Bill here

CONTACT
For more information, contact pam@openrightsgroup.org

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June 07, 2016 | Pam Cowburn

Open Rights Group urges MPs to vote against the IPBill if bulk powers remain

Digital campaigners the Open Rights Group are calling on MPs to vote against the Investigatory Powers Bill if proposals for bulk powers remain in the controversial new surveillance law.

Executive Director, Jim Killock said:

“The Government is intent on pressing ahead with the IP Bill even though it will give the UK an extreme surveillance law unsuited to a democracy. The IP Bill’s powers are too broad and permit the surveillance of citizens whether or not they are suspected of wrongdoing.

"Surveillance should be targeted at those who are suspected of a crime.”

It is expected that a majority of MPs will vote in favour of the Bill tonight. It will then transfer to the House of Lords.

The Bill includes powers that will allow the Security Services to easily access any public or private database. The Government has admitted that the vast majority of such data will relate to people who are not suspected of any crimes. The intelligence services and the police will also be able to hack the electronic devices of third parties who are not direct suspects. Internet Service Providers will be forced to record their customers’ web browsing history and app use.

Earlier this week, ORG launched a film featuring a public toilet to highlight how dehumanising a lack of privacy can be.

For more information, email: press@openrightsgroup.org

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June 06, 2016 | Pam Cowburn

ORG Snoopers' Charter public toilet highlights importance of privacy

ORG has taken to the streets of London with a unique public toilet to give the public a taste of how dehumanising a lack of privacy can be.

With the click of a button, the walls of the toilet turned transparent, exposing those inside.

The film aims to highlight how the Bill will give the police and security services extensive surveillance powers that could invade everyone’s privacy. Watch the film and find out more at: https://www.snooperscharter.co.uk

The Bill, being debated in the House of Commons today, includes powers that will allow the Security Services to easily access any public or private database, with the vast majority of that data linked to people who are not suspected of any crimes – as admitted by the Government.

The intelligence services and the police will also be able to hack electronic devices and Internet Service Providers will be forced to record their customers’ web browsing history and app use. MPs are expected to vote on it on the Bill on June 7th before it is transferred to the House of Lords.

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

“While many are aware of the Bill and what it means for personal freedom, we felt that there may be some members of the public that aren’t overly concerned with their online privacy.

"We hoped that by exposing people where they are most vulnerable we could encourage a debate about how much we value privacy and how comfortable we are with others accessing personal information without our consent. Hopefully the video can do this.”

While there have been some minor amendments to improve the Bill, if passed as it stands, it will give the UK one of the most extreme and intrusive surveillance laws in any Western democracy.

Killock added: “We at Open Rights Group still find it remarkable that this Bill is heading to the Commons. We would encourage anyone with an interest in personal freedom to read up on the issues and ask how comfortable they feel with every aspect of their life being accessible in a few clicks.

“Now is the time to raise your voice and make sure that we don’t sleepwalk into a surveillance state. The stakes really are that high.”

Watch the film here: https://www.snooperscharter.co.uk

For more information, please contact: press@openrightsgroup.org

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May 31, 2016 | Pam Cowburn

ORG calls on public to post pics to save Freedom of Panorama

Digital Rights campaigners, Open Rights Group are calling on members of the public to post pictures of public buildings and art from across the European Union as part of our campaign to protect ‘Freedom of Panorama’.

Freedom of Panorama is the right that allows us to take photos of public buildings like the Shard, the Angel of the North or the Scottish parliament without asking the artist or the architect for permission.

Although there is Freedom of Panorama in the UK, some European countries don’t have this right. The European Commission is discussing proposals that could remove this right. 

The Commission will decide whether there should be Freedom of Panorama across commercial and non-commercial use. Pictures shared on shared on commercial platforms such as Facebook, Flickr and Instagram could fall under ‘commercial use. This means that holiday snaps could be blocked, removed or the owner threatened with legal action.  

Executive Director of Open Rights Group, Jim Killock said:

"Holiday snaps of famous twentieth century buildings or public sculptures, when published online, will frequently infringe infringe copyright in different member states. This is extremely silly as well as creating legal hazards for online publishers. We need to make sure that the Commission protects the right to Freedom of Panorama and tries to restore some sanity."

ORG is calling for a simplification of the rules to allow the European Commission to allow Freedom of Panorama across the EU for both commercial and non-commercial use.

Members of the public can post their pictures with the hashtag #SaveFoP or add this tag to existing pictures of European public buildings and works of art on Instagram and Flickr. ORG will use these to highlight to the European Commission the dangers of removing Freedom of Panorama. Submissions to the Commission on this issue can be made here: http://youcan.fixcopyright.eu

For more information go to: https://www.openrightsgroup.org/campaigns/save-freedom-of-panorama/faqs

You can view tagged pictures on Flickr here.   

Contact: press@openrightsgroup.org

 

 

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May 23, 2016 | Jim Killock

Waterstones customers lose out from DRM

ORG responds to Waterstone’s decision to close their ebooks store.

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

“This shows how vulnerable customers are when their digital content is locked up by so-called ‘Digital Rights Management’. Some people will lose their ebooks. Nobody can choose to move their content from one device to another without the book stores’ permission.

“Without DRM, customers would have choice and be protected, as they are with music downloads today.

“DRM is locking up the market for Amazon, Apple and Kobo. This is bad news for authors and their readers.”

More info: 

https://www.waterstones.com/help/ebooks-&-mp3-audio-downloads/12

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/36360531 

http://www.teleread.com/kobo-takes-uk-waterstones-ebook-store/

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April 25, 2016 | Pam Cowburn

Theresa May has to answer to the ECtHR

Open Rights Group has responded to Theresa May’s call to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights so that the UK will no longer be subject to rulings by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtCR).

 Executive Director Jim Killock said:

“Theresa May will be defending mass surveillance in the ECtHR over the next weeks, as they examine what we have learnt about huge programmes gathering everyone’s data. This is the same court that Theresa May believes she should not have to answer to.

“The government built GCHQ’s programmes without discussion in parliament. The ECtHR has provided a way for impartial judges to examine what our government has done, even when they preferred to bypass democratic procedure.”

Open Rights Group, along with Big Brother Watch, English PEN and internet campaigner Constanze Kurz are asking the European Court of Human Rights to rule on whether UK surveillance and oversight comply with the right to privacy under Article 8 of the European Convention. After being put on hold for two years, the case is now proceeding and a Judgment is expected later this year.

More information

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April 22, 2016 | Jim Killock

Ten year copyright jail terms

Online criminal copyright infringement jail sentences to be extended to a maximum ten years

Reacting to Baroness Neville Rolfe’s announcement that the government would proceed with ten year sentences for online copyright infringement, Jim Killock said:

"We note that the minister has committed to narrowing the scope of the offence. We need to see that it relates to genuinely commercial infringements. In particular the test of prejudicially affecting the copyright holder needs to go, and a test for actual knowledge needs to be present.

"We would welcome further discussions with her and the IPO to understand how the government seeks to ensure these new sentences are not abused to threaten people whose civil copyright misdemeanours are not deserving of custodial sentences."

Over 1000 respondents from ORG’s community submitted evidence to the consultation.

 

 

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April 12, 2016 | Pam Cowburn

CJEU hearing could find IPBill incompatible with EU law

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) will today hold an emergency hearing that could have implications for the Investigatory Powers Bill, which is currently passing through Parliament.

The CJEU has been asked to explain its April 2014 Judgment in a case brought by Digital Rights Ireland, which ruled blanket data retention severely interfered with rights to respect for private life and the protection of personal data. The Court also declared the Data Retention Directive invalid.

Open Rights Group’s Legal Director, Myles Jackman said:

“The Court found that you shouldn’t collect people’s data unless there is a specific reason and that there should be strict controls for allowing access to this data. With both DRIPA and the IPBill, the British government has ignored this call to respect our human rights.

We look forward to the CJEU’s clarification of their ruling and hope that it rejects once and for all the blanket collection of our personal data.”

ORG intervened in the case with Privacy International. Their Legal Officer Camilla Graham Wood said:

"The UK, in enacting legislation that is almost identical to the European Data Retention Directive which the CJEU ruled unlawful, is mandating data retention on a widespread, indiscriminate and untargeted basis. Such a broad and wholesale retention of communications data is in violation of European law.”

Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIPA)

Three months after the Digital Rights Ireland Judgment, the British government fast-tracked the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIPA) through Parliament. This enabled the continued retention of personal communications data by Communications Service Providers in the UK.

DRIPA was challenged by the MPs David Davis and Tom Watson in a judicial review brought by Liberty with ORG and Privacy International acting as intervenors. The High Court ruled that DRIPA was inconsistent with EU law.

The ruling referred to two criteria laid down by the CJEU in the Digital Rights Ireland case:

1.   DRIPA did not provide clear and precise rules about access to and use of the retained communications data.
2.  Under DRIPA it is not a mandatory requirement for a court or an independent administrative body to authorise access to the retained data.

When the Government appealed the High Court’s decision, the Court of Appeal asked the CJEU court to explain how the DRI ruling should be applied in the UK.

Investigatory Powers Bill
The IPB would extend the data that is retained by Communication Service Providers to include Internet Connection Records, which have been broadly described as records of users’ browsing history. The CJEU previously said that data should not be retained without a specific reason.

The IPB would also continue to allow the police and government departments to authorise internally access to this data. This would fail to meet the criteria that independent courts or bodies should authorise access to data.

For more information, contact press@openrightsgroup.org

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March 15, 2016 | Pam Cowburn

ORG urges MPs to oppose the Investigatory Powers Bill

Open Rights Group is urging MPs to oppose the Investigatory Powers Bill, which has its second reading in the House of Commons this afternoon.

Executive Director, Jim Killock said:

"MPs of any political party who value democracy must resist the Government's attempts to rush the Investigatory Powers Bill through Parliament.

"The UK's senior lawyers, its journalists and the tech industry have lambasted the Bill. Parliament's own committees have called for significant changes to its powers. But the Government is intent on forcing it into law. MPs must act before it's too late.”

ORG issued a briefing to MPs yesterday: https://www.openrightsgroup.org/ourwork/reports/investigatory-powers-bill-briefing

For more information or to arrange interviews, email: press@openrightsgroup.org

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