Press releases

Press releases


Know your rights when it comes to e-receipts on Black Friday

Open Rights Group is warning shoppers not to accidentally sign up for spam if they are offered e-receipts when shopping this Christmas.

As well as encouraging shoppers to assert their legal rights, ORG is calling on shops to make sure they are not breaking the UK’s data protection laws. Many shops are asking for customers’ email addresses without always explaining how they will be used. Although some customers may find it more convenient to get a receipt by email, they should be told if their email address will be used for marketing purposes.

Executive Director Jim Killock said:

“E-receipts shouldn’t mean that we have to give away our data. Shops need to be clear about how they are going to use customers’ email addresses they collect at the point of sale. Customers should always be given the option to say no to getting marketing emails even if they choose to get an e-receipt.

"If shops fail to ask permission to send marketing emails, we would urge their customers to report them to the ICO. No one wants to end up with spam for Christmas.”

Some of the shops that offer e-receipts include Apple, Argos, Debenhams, Halfords, Topshop and Next.  E-receipts as an opportunity for shops to build their e-mail lists and to get insights into individuals through their purchases.

The law states that customers need to be given 'a simple means of refusing' any future direct marketing emails at the point of sale.

The Information Commissioner has also clarified that, “Whenever customer information is collected there must be a clear explanation given of how their information will be used.” 

For more information, read our blog or email press@openrightsgroup.org.

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Government departments could share personal health and financial data with energy companies

 

Proposals in the Digital Economy Bill could see private energy companies being given personal data, including information about UK citizens’ health, housing and finances.

The Bill aims to make it easier for low income households to get discounts on their energy bills. To do this, it has been proposed that energy companies should be automatically notified if customers are entitled to discounts.

Previously the Government has claimed that this would not involve the sharing of personal data with energy companies. However, as energy companies all have different criteria for who is eligible for a discount, this might not be easy to achieve. The proposals as outlined in the Digital Economy Bill do not rule out the automatic sharing of raw data. This would include data about households who are not even entitled to a discount.

Executive Director of Open Rights Group, Jim Killock said:

“Previously the Government has said that it won't hand over our data to energy companies but the wording of the Digital Economy Bill tells a different story.

“Energy companies only need to know that a customer is entitled to a discount; it’s not necessary for them to know what they earn, how many children they have or whether they have a long-term health condition.

“Under the current proposals in the Digital Economy Bill, we could see the wholesale transfer of personal information from government departments to energy companies.

“The Government can’t automatically share our data just because their system for determining who gets help is a mess. ”


Open Rights Group is calling on the Government to:

  • Put in place consistent criteria for working out who is entitled to discounts on their energy Bills
  • Amend the Digital Economy Bill so that it is clear that the only data shared with energy companies is whether someone is entitled to a discount.

For more information, read ORG’s blog on the issue or contact press@openrightsgroup.org

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The Investigatory Powers Bill's impact will reach beyond the UK

The Investigatory Powers Bill (IP Bill) has been passed by the House of Lords and is expected to become law within the next few weeks.

Executive Director Jim Killock responded:

“The passing of the IP Bill will have an impact that goes beyond the UK's shores. It is likely that other countries, including authoritarian regimes with poor human rights records, will use this law to justify their own intrusive surveillance powers.

“The IP Bill will put into statute the powers and capabilities revealed by Snowden as well as increasing surveillance by the police and other government departments. There will continue to be a lack of privacy protections for international data sharing arrangements with the US. Parliament has also failed to address the implications of the technical integration of GCHQ and the NSA.

“While parliamentarians have failed to limit these powers, the Courts may succeed. A ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union, expected next year, may mean that parts of the Bill are shown to be unlawful and need to be amended. 

"ORG and others will continue to fight this draconian law.”

About the IP Bill
In the wake of the Snowden revelations, three separate inquiries called for new surveillance laws in the UK. It was recognised that the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) had failed to limit surveillance and allowed the creation of surveillance programmes without parliamentary debate or assent. In response, the Government published the draft IP Bill in November 2015.

The IP Bill is a vast piece of legislation that will extend not limit surveillance in the UK. It will mean that:

  • 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 security services will continue to have powers to collect communications data in bulk.
  • The police and security services will have new hacking powers.
  • The security services can access and analyse public and private databases, even though the majority of data will be held about people who are not suspected of any crimes.

For more information about the Bill and what it means, visit ORG's campaign hub.

 

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Open Rights Group responds to US election results

Executive Director Jim Killock said:

“The US election has massive implications for the British public as both countries’ intelligence agencies are so closely integrated. The Snowden leaks showed us how GCHQ carries out work for the NSA and how the latter’s operatives can access GCHQ surveillance programmes.

“The integration of the NSA and GCHQ puts into question the UK’s ability to have proper oversight of the surveillance of its citizens. The UK is dependent on US technology and data to such an extent that it is unlikely that we could separate our intelligence capabilities even if we wanted to.

“Whilst the ‘special relationship’ has always been perceived to be in the UK’s interests, our politicians need to consider its implications in the age of bulk data collection and surveillance.”

Notes to Editors
Open Rights Group’s report Collect it all: GCHQ and mass surveillance outlines how GCHQ and the NSA are integrated. See in particular sections 5.3 and 9.9.

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MPs propose web blocking for porn sites

A group of MPs have tabled an amendment to the Digital Economy Bill that would allow pornography websites to be blocked by Internet Service Providers if they fail to verify the age of their users.

Executive Director Jim Killock said:

“Perhaps these MPs have realised that plans to make all adult websites apply age verification are unworkable as foreign porn sites may simply not comply. They are now suggesting that websites who don't comply should be blocked – even though their content is perfectly legal.

“While child protection is important, this proposal is disproportionate. Censorship of this kind should be reserved for illegal and harmful content.

“We are talking about potentially thousands of websites with legal material being censored, something that is unprecedented in the developed world.”

The Digital Economy Bill has proposed that all pornography websites should be forced to verify the age of their users. This has sparked concerns that the privacy of adults could be violated. It is not yet clear how age verification will be implemented but it could lead to the collection of data on everyone who visits a porn website. This kind of information could be vulnerable to ‘Ashley Madison’ style data breaches.

This is the second time such amendments have been suggested. ORG has written about this previously here

For more information, contact press@openrightsgroup.org

Notes to Editors

The proposed amendments can be found here

 

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Facebook is right to stop Admiral insurance from using its data

Open Rights Group supports Facebook's decision to prevent the Admiral insurance company from using its data to inform car insurance quotes for young people.

Executive Director Jim Killock said “We need to think about the wider consequences of allowing companies to make decisions that affect us financially or otherwise, based on what we have said on social media.

“Such intrusive practices could see decisions being made against certain groups based on biases about race, gender, religion or sexuality – or because their posts in some way mark them as unconventional. Ultimately, this could change how people use social media, encouraging self-censorship in anticipation of future decisions.

“Young people may feel pushed into such schemes because of financial constraints. The right to keep things private shouldn't be the preserve of those who can afford it.”

According to Admiral’s press release: “The technology uses social data personality assessments, matched to real claims data, to better understand first time drivers and more accurately predict risk.”

However, this has been found to be in breach of Facebook's Platform Policy section 3.15, which states:

"Don’t use data obtained from Facebook to make decisions about eligibility, including whether to approve or reject an application or how much interest to charge on a loan."

Contact press@openrightsgroup.org for more information.

Please note that this press release has been updated. We originally believed that Facebook had disabled the app but they have since issued a statement that it will be used for login and verification. Facebook's statement is as follows:

“Protecting the privacy of the people on Facebook is of utmost importance to us. We have clear guidelines that prevent information being obtained from Facebook from being used to make decisions about eligibility.
 
We have made sure anyone using this app is protected by our guidelines and that no Facebook user data is used to assess their eligibility. Facebook accounts will only be used for login and verification purposes.
 
Our understanding is that Admiral will then ask users who sign up to answer questions which will be used to assess their eligibility.”

 

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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 javier@openrightsgroup.org, 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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