Press releases

Press releases

ORG responds to the Intelligence and Security Committee report into the Investigatory Powers Bill

Open Rights Group welcomes the Intelligence and Security Committee’s report into the Investigatory Powers Bill.

Executive Director Jim Killock said:

“Credit should be given to the ISC for highlighting the Investigatory Powers Bill’s failure to consistently apply privacy protections. As their report shows, the Bill lacks clarity and fails in its mission to provide a comprehensive legal framework.

“We also agree that the draft Bill ‘appears to have suffered from a lack of sufficient time and preparation’.

“There have been suggestions that a new version of the Bill will be published by the end of February.  The Home Office needs a lot longer than two weeks to redraft their bill. Theresa May must ensure that the ISC’s very serious and considered demands are dealt with in full.

“Rushing through legislation has to stop. It's time for a proper debate about whether bulk surveillance powers are acceptable in a democracy like the UK.”

ORG supports the ISC’s keys call for:

  • a new section of the Bill dedicated to overarching privacy protections
  • the removal of bulk equipment interference warrants
  • the removal of class bulk personal dataset warrants, which would allow the agencies to obtain any number of personal datasets
  • the application of the same safeguards to all communications data.


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ORG responds to the Science and Technology Committee's report on the Investigatory Powers Bill

The Science & Technology Committee has warned that the Investigatory Powers Bill could undermine the UK's tech sector.

Jim Killock, Executive Director of Open Rights Group said:

"David Cameron needs to consider whether he wants to be the Conservative PM that jeopardised the success of the UK tech industry.

"As it stands, the IPB will be bad for business, bad for citizens and bad for UK democracy.

"There are serious concerns about whether the issues raised by the Committee can be resolved in such a short timeframe. There is too much at stake for the government to rush this law through."

The Committee's report is available here.

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ORG response to the draft Investigatory Powers Bill

ORG has responded to the publication of the UK's proposed new surveillance law, the draft Investigatory Powers Bill.

Executive Director of Open Rights Group, Jim Killock said:

 “This Bill will redefine the relationship between the state and the public for a generation. The government needs to get it right and made sure that the UK's law enforcement and security agencies can fight serious crime while upholding all of our human rights.”

“However, at first glance, it appears that this Bill is an attempt to grab even more intrusive surveillance powers and does not do enough to restrain the bulk collection of our personal data by the secret services. It proposes an increase in the blanket retention of our personal communications data, giving the police the power to access web logs. It also gives the state intrusive hacking powers that can carry risks for everyone's Internet security.”

“The Joint Committee must now listen to the concerns of activists and the public if they are to restore trust in the police and security services.”

Open Rights Group will now scrutinise the Bill in detail.

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ORG response to David Cameron's call for web filter law

ORG has responded to the Prime Minister's calls for legislation that will implement filters for adult content. This follows the European's Parliament vote for net neutrality regulations, which will ban the current voluntary agreement made between ISPs and the government to provide filters, which some providers switch on by default.

Jim Killock, Executive Director of Open Rights Group (ORG) said:

“We welcome the opportunity to have a debate about filters, which are flawed, censor websites and do not necessarily keep children safe online.

“Customers should be given the choice to opt-in to filters, they should not be switched on by default. Parents also need to be made aware that filters may overblock sites that are suitable for children and also fail to block sites that are inappropriate.

"However, we welcome Cameron's call for legislation so that at least we can challenge this dreadful idea.”

ORG has developed a tool at which monitors blocking by filters. At its launch, we found that 1 in 5 websites were blocked by parental controls. Sites that have been blocked include small businesses as well as charities and education sites that are specifically aimed at young people.

ORG has also created a satirical film about filters called the Department of Dirty.

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EU Parliament adopts highly ambiguous Net Neutrality legislation

The European Parliament has voted to adopt the Telecoms Single Market (TSM) regulation. The regulation was supposed to guarantee net neutrality in Europe.

Unfortunately, MEPs have created large loopholes and left ambiguity in much of the legislation. Net neutrality is the principle whereby Internet access providers treat internet traffic equally. Because of the vagueness of the new regulations, telecoms regulators in EU Member States will now have to decide whether telecoms companies in their country will be able to prioritise different categories of data.

Jim Killock of UK digital rights organisation Open Rights Group said,

"MEPs have passed the buck on net neutrality. They have voted for an unclear and ambiguous piece of net neutrality legislation that fails to mention net neutrality. It is now up to national telecoms regulators to decide whether all our Internet traffic should be treated equally or whether rich companies will be able to outbid their smaller competitors for faster delivery of their services."

The vote comes after two years of negotiations between the EU Parliament, Council, and Commission.

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IPT ruling on Wilson doctrine opens way for devolved parliament and assemblies to challenge surveillance

The Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) has ruled that the Wilson Doctrine does not protect MPs and peers' communications from surveillance by the intelligence agencies.

In response, Open Rights Group's Executive Director, Jim Killock said:

“Bulk interception means that everyone's personal communications data can be collected. Now that our MPs and peers know that they don't get special protection through the Wilson Doctrine, we hope that they will fight for an end to indiscriminate surveillance.”

The IPT ruled that parliamentarians' communications are protected by the same law that protects UK's citizens' communications – the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA). The Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, David Anderson QC, has described the UK's surveillance law as “fragmented, obscure, under constant challenge and variable in the protections that it affords the innocent”.

Devolved parliament and assemblies

In July, it was reported that the latest update to GCHQ's internal policy removed protections for members of the Scottish parliament and the Northern Irish and Welsh assemblies.

Killock added: “We believe that today's ruling opens the way for members of the devolved parliament and assemblies in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales to ask the IPT whether they have been under surveillance and if so whether this was justified.”

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Open Rights Group welcomes CJEU Safe Harbor ruling

Open Rights Group welcomes today’s decision by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) that the Safe Harbor agreement is invalid.

Executive Director, Jim Killock said: 

“In the face of the Snowden revelations, it is clear that Safe Harbor is not worth the paper its written on. We need a new agreement that will protect EU citizens from mass surveillance by the NSA.”

Privacy activist Max Schrems initially brought a case against Facebook in Ireland, arguing that US companies were passing data to the NSA, and therefore violating his privacy. The Irish Data Protection Commissioner rejected the case on the grounds that the Safe Harbour agreement made provisions to protect the transfer of data. Schrems appealed the decision and today the CJEU found that Safe Harbor is invalid.

For interviews, contact: Pam Cowburn

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Dropping Privacy and Civil Liberties Board highlights need for judicial authorisation

Open Rights Group has responded to the announcement in today's Terrorism Acts report that plans for a Privacy and Civil Liberties Board have been dropped.

Policy Director, Javier Ruiz said:

"While Open Rights Group did not feel the proposals for a Privacy and Civil Liberties Board went far enough, its removal highlights the need for more, not less, input from civil society on the reform of surveillance oversight.  ORG is calling for prior authorisation of surveillance decisions by judges, not limited reviews after the event."

The Privacy and Civil Liberties Board was proposed in July 2014 as one of the concessions for the fast-tracking of the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act through Parliament.

The Terrorism Acts report is available here.

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HIV clinic data breach

Noting the release of hundreds of the 56 Dean Street HIV clinic patients’ names and emails Jim Killock, Executive Director of the Open Rights Group said:

“Incidents like this are all too common and harmful. Organisations need to understand and manage their risks much better. 

“The ICO needs to properly enforce the law. Data breaches create victims and risks that are often impossible to control, once they have occurred.

“EU needs to finish its work on data protection so that better enforcement and fines of 2% of turnover make this a board room issue for every organisation."


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10 years for copyright infringement should be limited to criminals causing serious harm

Open Rights Group (ORG) has responded to an Intellectual Property Office (IPO) consultation on proposals to increase the maximum prison sentence for criminal online copyright infringement to 10 years. The would bring sanctions for online copyright infringement in line with those for physical copyright infringement.

ORG agrees with the IPO that the online environment should not confer less protection for copyright holders. However, the IPO's proposals could mean that people who share links and files online without any financial gain could be punished more severely than criminals who commit physical theft, which has a maximum penalty of seven years.

Executive Director, Jim Killock said: 

“The key problem is that copyright infringement requires no ‘intent’ to harm. Someone who shares copyrighted files can face a criminal charge because of the apparent value of the copies shared. The value of share files is hard to estimate and can easily be exaggerated. This makes the criminal copyright offence very wide and could mean heavy-handed sentences for ordinary people and businesses.

“We are asking the IPO to narrow the criminal charge to businesses and people intending to cause serious harm. Ten years in jail is a very harsh punishment, which should be reserved for real criminals who are making financial gains from copyright infringement.”

More information is available here

ORG has created an online form to allow people to respond to the IPO consultation, which closes on August 17.

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