Today, along with the Open Rights Group, English PEN and Index on Censorship, we have signed a letter to Culture Secretary Maria Miller highlighting our concerns about the current debate around ‘blocking’ internet content.
It is absolutely right to pursue the removal of illegal content from the internet, but moving to a system where legal content is blocked poses a clear and significant risk to freedom of speech. The triviality of circumventing blocks aside, such a policy risks blocking legitimate websites and setting a dangerous international precedent. After all, who gets to decide what legal content is deemed to be unfit for the British public?
If content is illegal, pursue it, remove it and prosecute those who are responsible. If content is legal, then having a political, non-judicial process to decide what should be blocked is not the right way forward.
The letter is reproduced below.
New research for the Ponemon Institute for SafeGov.org highlights some critical issues in the increasing use of cloud-based services to store and process the confidential personal information of people using public services.
On the one hand, schools are not immune from the need to modernise how they operate and reduce costs. According to the research, a strong majority of schools expect to deploy cloud email and document services in the foreseeable future. The data shows that the ease of administering the system and lower costs are key drivers to move to cloud, while just 11% of respondents say the move will help protect student privacy. One in four already use cloud email for students and one in five do so for staff.
We have long called for changes to the CRB system having seen lives ruined by over reliance on a flawed system. Following from a Court of Appeal ruling in January, this week the Home Office announced a shakeup of the CRB system which will see a much more common sense approach to a system that was ruining people’s lives.
The Home Office announced that the changes, which are due to become law in the next few weeks, would “ensure a balance between ensuring that children and vulnerable groups are protected and avoiding intrusion into people’s lives.”
As detailed below, the rumours of burglars having their conviction erased from the checks will only happen (if the offence is commented when over the age of 18) if 11 years has elapsed since the date of conviction, and it the person’s only offence and if it did not result in a custodial sentence.
In today’s Times, Nick Herbert MP has written an article calling for the return of the Communications Data Bill. Although it’s not clear he has read it.
As copyright law prohibits us from reproducing the entire article, we have had to pick and choose which errors to reproduce here. Which has proved tricky, as most of the article is wrong or misleading in some way.
“Clever use of surveillance technology doesn’t recruit terrorists; it puts them in jail
To claim that letting the security agencies find out who terrorist suspects have been talking to is as evil as hacking down an unarmed soldier is a sign of missing judgment.”
Under Part 2 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, the Security Services and Police already have the power to find out who a suspected terrorist is talking to. How they do this, from covert human intelligence sources, covert surveillance, directed surveillance or intercept is up to them.
During the debate about the Communications Data Bill, one of the points we repeatedly made was that while this bill was not about reading the contents of messages, but that the details of who you communicate with were still incredibly private information.
In the aftermath of the atrocity in Woolwich, The Prime Minister was absolutely right to warn against knee-jerk reactions. Sadly, various voices have called for the legislation to be revived, despite widespread criticism from two Parliamentary committees and two polls over finding the public still opposed it’s introduction.
If, as has been reported, these individuals were already of concern to the security services then it is of course right they were subjects of surveillance activity. It is not yet clear if these individuals could have been put under closer surveillance. That is an important question to be asked.
Deputy Director Emma Carr has contributed this piece to Index on Censorship’s website.
John Reid and others’ attempt to make a political argument about “essential” legislation just hours after the brutal murder in Woolwich this week was remarkable, given how little was known at the time and the fact the victim’s family had not even been informed of his death.
Yes, it is right to examine how our security services could have been aided to prevent the horrific scenes we saw in Woolwich this week, but to jump to conclusions and use the politics of fear to promote an agenda before the any detail is available is simply wrong.
Indeed, as the facts have begun to emerge, it seems the answer may look very different to the draft Communications Data bill.
Today, the country begins the process of coming to terms with the horrific attack in Woolwich yesterday.
We know little about those who have committed this brutal terror attack. Videos and photographs have brought the chilling savagery of the perpetrators into our homes.
As the Prime Minister said:
“The terrorists will never win because they can never beat the values we hold dear, the belief in freedom, in democracy, in free speech, in our British values, western values. They are never going to defeat those.
“That is how we will stand up to these people, whoever they are, however many there are of them, and that is how we will win.”
Sadly, Lords Reid and Carlise did not restrain themselves from attacking the Government even hours after the attack. It is wholly wrong for them tobe arguing for a change of policy before the details of what has happened in Woolwich are clear and before even the family of the victim had been notified. At this time our thoughts should be with the victim’s family and not on scoring political headlines.
In a positive step forward, the Government has announced that more than 1.1 million DNA profiles belonging to innocent people have so far been destroyed to allow new laws to be brought into force. In addition, 6.3 million DNA samples containing sensitive biological material, which are no longer needed as a completed DNA profile has been obtained, have also been destroyed.
Big Brother Watch has campaigned on this issue for several years, raising concerns that the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 failed to adopt the Scottish system of retention meaning that English and Welsh citizens could find that their details are retained and shared in situations where someone from Scotland or another country would not have to worry about something that happened many years in the past.
For more than one million innocent people to have their DNA taken and stored is a stark warning of how the last Government got the balance between security and freedom badly wrong and highlights that public safety can be protected without a constant assault upon our privacy and civil liberties.
Would you be surprised to hear that a manager at the Information Commissioner’s Office, the very organisation that was set up to “uphold information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals”, has said that consumers only like to complain about privacy if companies mess up?
At the IAB’s Mobile Engage conference, and ICO manager of business and industry, Dave Evans, said: “Consumers are not interested in privacy but they become interested if you get it wrong.” He added: “If you give them what they want but you get it wrong in the process then they [consumers] start to care where the data came from.” However, having taken a look at the ICO’s own research it seems like Evan’s isn’t even a little bit right!
A 2011 survey commissioned by the ICO showed that: almost nine out of ten respondents were concerned about the way personal information is handled, with 89% of respondents being concerned about protecting people’s personal information. This makes protecting personal information the second highest concern in terms of social issues raised in the survey, and it has been every year since 2007. There was also a high level of concern from respondents (59%) that they have lost control over the way their personal information is collected.
In a word, yes.
When news broke of the US Government’s wholesale request for data on Associated Press journalists,
The New Yorker quickly highlighted how US law allowed the Department of Justice to go straight to the phone companies, without notifying AP (although it’s own guidelines said this should not normally happen.) Because of this, there was no opportunity to test the justification for such a massive intrusion on the freedom of the press.