Press releases

Press releases

Investigatory Powers Bill threatens the British public's right to privacy

The Investigatory Powers Bill is one step closer to becoming law after it was passed by the House of Lords yesterday.

Open Rights Group’s Executive Director, Jim Killock, responded:

“The UK is one step closer to having one of the most extreme surveillance laws ever passed in a democracy.

Despite attempts by the Lib Dems and Greens to restrain these draconian powers, the Bill is still a threat to the British public’s right to privacy.”

The IP Bill is a comprehensive surveillance law that was drafted after three inquiries highlighted flaws in existing legislation. However, the new Bill fails to restrain mass surveillance by the police and security services and even extends their powers. Once passed, Internet Service Providers could be obliged to store their customers’ web browsing history for a year. The police and government departments will have unprecedented powers to access this data through a search engine that could be used for profiling. The Bill will also allow the security services to continue to collect communications data in bulk and could see Internet security weakened by allowing mass hacking.

ORG’s concerns are outlined here.

The IP Bill will now return to the House of Commons for a final vote.

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Copyright reform fails EU citizens in favour of industry

Open Rights Group has criticised the European Commission's proposals for the Directive on Copyright in the Single Market, published today.

Executive Director Jim Killock said:

“Thousands of EU citizens responded to the consultation on copyright, only for the Commission to ignore their concerns in favour of industry. The Commission’s proposals would fail to harmonise copyright law and create a fair system for Internet users, creators and rights holders. Instead we could see new regressive rights that compel private companies to police the Internet on behalf of rights holders.”

Failure to introduce EU wide freedom of panorama exception

The failure to introduce a harmonised exception for freedom of panorama is both a lost opportunity and a direct snub to the thousands of people who responded to the Commission’s consultation on this. It appears that the Commission has simply ignored their opinions and made no mention of freedom of panorama in its proposals. Freedom of panorama is a copyright exception that allows members of the public to share pictures they’ve taken of public buildings and art. While this right exists in the UK, many European countries do not have this exception, which means that innocuous holiday snaps can infringe copyright.

Compelling intermediaries to filter content

The proposals aim to compel intermediaries, such as YouTube, to prevent works that infringe copyright from appearing on their services through content identification technologies. This is effect would force sites to police their platforms on behalf of rights holders through filters and other technologies that are a blunt instrument.

Such proposals could place unreasonable burdens on smaller operators and reduce innovation among EU tech companies. They will certainly lead to a greater number of incorrect takedowns, as “Robocopy” takedowns cannot take account of fair quotation, parody, or even use of public domain material.

These plans could undermine the UK’s hard-won right to parody copyright works. Folk songs and classical performances by amateurs are often misidentified and removed as infringing 'copies' of performances of professional musicians for instance.

New ancillary copyright for news publishers

The proposals suggest a new right for news publishers, designed to prevent search engines and news aggregators from reproducing snippets at the expense of publishers. Although, this is designed to protect the media industry, it had a disastrous impact on news websites when similar proposals were introduced in Spain and Germany. It is also disproportionate that the proposed right would last 20 years, given that it applies to news.

Notes to Editors

Open Rights Group is the UK’s leading grass roots digital rights organisation, campaigning for the right to privacy and free speech.

ORG’s FAQs document on freedom of panorama is available here

ORG is part of Copyright for Creativity, which campaigns for a new European approach to copyright.

The Commisson's proposals are available here.

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Digital Economy Bill could lead to Ashley Madison style data breaches

Open Right Group has criticised parts of the Digital Economy Bill (DEB), which has its second reading in the House of Commons today. While the Bill includes some beneficial proposals, there are worrying plans that could affect UK citizens’ rights.

Age verification for porn sites

The DEB includes plans to oblige porn websites to set up age verification to prevent under 18s from seeing adult content.

Executive Director of Open Rights Group, Jim Killock said:
“While age verification may seem like a good way to protect young people, it is not clear how it could be implemented and still protect individuals' privacy. Collecting the details of everyone who visits a porn website could create datasets that are vulnerable to Ashley Madison style data breaches. We need more information on how the government intends to implement this policy.”
Ten years in prison for file sharing

The DEB also includes proposals to bring sentences for online copyright infringement in line with physical copyright theft.
Killock added:

“The Digital Economy Bill could mean that people who share files could get a jail sentence, even if they aren't doing it to make money. Sharing music, films or books online could result in a longer prison sentence than stealing from a shop. We don't think the creative industries want to punish people in this way but it could be exploited by ‘copyright trolls’, such as Golden Eye International, who send threatening letters demanding payments to people who have committed minor copyright infringements. It will only take a small tweak to the proposed legislation to ensure that this doesn't happen.”

The DEB states that there needs to be “a reason to believe” that infringement will cause a loss or will create “a risk of loss”. ORG is calling for “risk of loss” to be removed to ensure that file sharing that is not done for financial gain does not lead to threats of criminal convictions with jail sentences.

ORG’s full briefing on the Digital Economy Bill is available here.

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ORG responds to David Anderson's review of bulk surveillance

In today's review David Anderson provides broad support for the bulk surveillance powers included in the Investigatory Powers Bill going through Parliament. The review will be used to inform the next stages of parliamentary scrutiny of the Bill in the coming months.

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

"The review presents only one side of the story, the utility of such powers to the state.

We now need an honest discussion about surveillance that looks at the effects on society, and the balance of power between citizens and the government. Parliament must not simply rubber-stamp current practices.

Some of Anderson’s claims, such as that alternatives to bulk may exist but would be more cumbersome, should open the door to a deeper discussion about the ethics of bulk collection. Parliament cannot pass the buck any longer and will have to decide whether it is right to collect and analyse the phone calls and internet use of whole populations, turning everyone into a potential suspect."

For more information, contact, 07877 911 412

Notes to Editor

The Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, David Anderson QC, was asked by the Prime Minister to look at the operational case for the four bulk powers in the Investigatory Powers Bill, but but not to look at their desirability in the wider context or the safeguards that should apply.

The review will inform Parliament's scrutiny of the Bill. The House of Lords had put on hold examining the sections of the Bill related to the review until after its publication, and this scrutiny will take place after the Summer recess.

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ORG responds to CJEU Opinion into data retention

The Advocate General of the Court of Justice of the European Union has published his Opinion on data retention by EU member states. The subsequent judgment will have implications for the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIPA) and the Investigatory Powers Bill (IP BIll).

In today’s Opinion, the Advocate General said that data retention may be compatible with EU law only if data is being retained to fight serious crime and if there are strict safeguards in place.  The Opinion confirmed that he believes that EU law should apply when it comes to data retention and that member states should limit their interference with our fundamental rights to what is strictly necessary.

Executive Director of Open Rights Group, Jim Killock responded:

“The Advocate General has stated that data retention should only be used in the fight against serious crime, yet in the UK there are more than half a million requests for communications data each year. These do not only come from police but also local councils and government departments. It is difficult to see how the Government can claim that these organisations are investigating serious crimes.

“The Opinion calls for strict safeguards yet in the UK, there is currently no judicial authorisation in the UK -  police, local authorities and government departments can get internal sign off to access data. If the IP Bill is passed, data will be able to be analysed without a warrant through an intrusive tool known as the request filter.

“It may be too late to end data retention under DRIPA, which expires at the end of the year, but the Government has the opportunity to ensure that the IP Bill complies with EU law. In particular, they should end the extension of mass data retention proposed in the Bill, which would see the UK become one of the only democracies to record its citizens’ web browsing history and provide a police search engine to scour it.”

For more information, contact, 07749 785 932.

Notes to Editor

The CJEU had been asked to clarify how its previous judgment in a case brought by Digital Rights Ireland (DRI) should be interpreted by member states. The DRI judgment led to the Data Retention Directive being declared invalid on the grounds that it seriously interfered with our fundamental rights to respect for private life and to the protection of personal data.

Subsequently, Open Rights Group intervened in a case against the UK government brought by Tom Watson MP and David Davis MP, arguing that the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIPA) breached EU law. The High Court ruled that parts of DRIPA were invalid. 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.

The CJEU Judgment in this case is likely to be issued in September.

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Microsoft win is a victory for privacy rights

A US court has ruled that Microsoft does not have to hand over data from an email account to the US authorities because the data is held on a server in Ireland.

The US government attempted to use a search warrant to access the data, instead of relying upon the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLATs) agreed between the US and the EU and the US and Ireland. Microsoft challenged the initial decision by a US court to grant the warrant to search and seize the data. Today a Court ruled in favour of the company. However, the US may appeal the decision.

Open Rights Group's Legal Director Myles Jackman said:

“The US Court’s decision has upheld the right to individual privacy in the face of the US State’s intrusion into personal liberty. As a consequence, US law enforcement agencies must respect European citizens’ digital privacy rights and the protection of their personal data.

“States should not arbitrarily reach across borders just because they feel they can bully companies into doing so.

“We urge the UK Government to take note as the Investigatory Powers Bill will also attempt to create powers compelling overseas companies to do the UK's bidding. We need to establish a firm principle that companies abide by domestic law where they operate, rather than being answerable to every government across the globe that makes demands of them. The established route for requests for data by law enforcement agencies should be through treaties.”

Open Rights Group signed an amicus brief in support of Microsoft's case in December 2014.

For more information, email

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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

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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

For more information, contact

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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:

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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:

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:

For more information, please contact:

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