The Queen's Speech included several worrying things for digital rights which we'll be challenging over the next few months. Thank you for helping to inform our work and carrying out our campaigns to ensure that our digital rights are protected.
Here are some key announcements from the Queen's speech that will affect digital rights:
The UK Government plans to create a Digital Charter that will "keep everyone safe". This isn’t a Bill, but some kind of policy intervention, backed up by “regulation”. At this point, it is hard to know exactly what harms will emerge, but pushing regulation of the internet into the hands of private companies is problematic. Read more about internet regulation and our response to the London and Manchester attacks here.
The review includes “working with online companies to reduce and restrict the availability of extremist material online”. This appears to be a watered down version of the Conservative manifesto commitment to give greater responsibility for companies to take down extremist material from their platforms.
Commission for Countering Extremism
A Commission will look at the topic of countering extremism, likely including on the Internet. This appears to be a measure to generate ideas and thinking, which could be a positive approach, if it involves considering different approaches, rather than pressing ahead with policies in order to be seen to be doing something.
Encryption is not mentioned in the Queen's Speech, but that’s because the powers will be brought in through a statutory instrument enabling Technical Capability Notices.
Matthew Rice – our new Scotland Director – is visiting several local groups in Scotland over the next couple of weeks. Come along to meet Matthew and help shape upcoming work in ORG local groups. They are free and open to all.
The events are also a chance to meet people with an interest in digital rights and figure out how we can work together to protect and promote digital rights across Scotland.
It is difficult to overstate the importance of encryption. A cornerstone of the modern digital economy, we rely on it when we use our digital devices or make transactions online. Encryption also strengthens democracy by underpinning digital press freedom.
Laws restricting encrypted communications have generally been associated with more authoritarian governments, but lately proposals to circumvent encryption have been creeping into western democracies. Home Secretary Amber Rudd MP recently said that there should be a way around end-to-end encryption on devices like WhatsApp.
Rudd already has legislation that claims to give her the power to tell WhatsApp to remove “electronic protection” (read “encryption”). She can issue a technical capability notice (TCN) which instructs commercial software developers to produce work-arounds in their software without outlawing or limiting encryption itself.
ORG leaked a secret Home Office consultation on the draft TCN regulation, which gives more detail about how this power can be used. To be clear, this goes way beyond WhatsApp. The Government wants access to all UK telecommunications encompassing a wide variety of services.
We expect that they will publicise a statutory intrument that will allow these powers to come into effect. See ORG’s detailed breakdown of the TCN regulation here.
Last week, ORG joined 83 organisations and individuals from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States, in calling for our respective governments to defend strong encryption.
The group came together following revelations by Edward Snowden that showed the UK and US governments were engaged in the mass surveillance of their own citizens and people around the world.
DSOU called for an independent inquiry into mass surveillance by the UK Government and set out six principles for targted surveilance. The group worked together to campaign to modify powers in the Investigatory Powers Act.
Following the passing of this law, the DSOU has decided that the coalition is no longer the most effective way to challenge this law. Member organisations will continue to work with each other to push back against mass surveillance in the UK.
Devolved voice in Scotland vital for digital security
Read Matthew Rice's (our new Scotland Director) article on securing human rights in the digital age.
We are relaunching Blocked on the week beginning 24 July. If you want to help report Blocked sites please get in touch.
Tech companies establish the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism
Jim Killock discussed in a blog if tech companies can do more to eradicate safe spaces online.
Why The Government Shouldn't Break WhatsApp
Clear and concise video by Tom Scott explaining why the UK Government should protect encryption not threaten it.
ORG Scotland: Ask Me Anything
Tuesday 11 July,
12pm - 1pm
This AMA session is an opportunity to meet the new Scotland Director.
38 Castle Terrace,
Edinburgh, EH3 9DZ
Tuesday 11 July, 6:30pm - 9:30pm
Join the group for an outing to watch 'Risk'.
The Arts Picturehouse,
38-39 St Andrew's Street,
Cambridge, CB2 3AR
ORG Edinburgh: Shape the future of ORG Scotland
Tuesday 11 July, 6:30pm - 8:30pm
This is a chance to work together to protect and promote digital rights in Edinburgh and beyond.
The Royal Dick,
1 Summerhall Place,
Edinburgh, EH9 1PL
ORG Leeds: Free online privacy workshop for beginners
Wednesday 12 July, 6:30pm - 8:30pm
Learn how to protect yourself from mass surveillance and online crime.
Leeds, LS1 4AE
ORG Aberdeen: Shape the future of ORG Scotland
Thursday 13 July, 6:30pm - 8:30pm
This is a chance to work together to protect and promote digital rights in Aberdeen and beyond.
Under the Hammer,
11 North Silver Street,
Aberdeen, AB10 1RJ
De-Google-ify your life!
Monday 24 July, 6:30pm - 8:30pm
The group will be offering practical advice for replacing Google services with independent services.
Birmingham Open Media,
1 Dudley Street,
Birmingham, B5 4EG