Archive for the ‘Snoopers Charter’ Category

Read more gcnews.htm at MelonFarmers.co.uk

European court buildingsOn Tuesday 7 November, three joined cases brought by civil liberties and human rights organisations challenging UK Government surveillance will be heard in the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).

Big Brother Watch and Others v UK will be heard alongside 10 Human Rights Organisations and Others v UK and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and Alice Ross v UK, four years after the initial application to the ECtHR.

Big Brother Watch, English PEN, Open Rights Group and Dr Constanze Kurz made their application to the Court in 2013 following Edward Snowden’s revelations that UK intelligence agencies were running a mass surveillance and bulk communications interception programme, TEMPORA, as well as receiving data from similar US programmes, PRISM and UPSTREAM, interfering with UK citizens’ right to privacy.

The case questions the legality of the indiscriminate surveillance of UK citizens and the bulk collection of their personal information and communications by UK intelligence agencies under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA). The UK surveillance regime under RIPA was untargeted, meaning that UK citizens’ personal communications and information was collected at random without any element of suspicion or evidence of wrongdoing, and this regime was effective indefinitely.

The surveillance regime is being challenged on the grounds that there was no sufficient legal basis, no accountability, and no adequate oversight of these programmes, and as a result infringed UK citizens’ Article 8 right to a private life.

In 2014, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism made an application to the ECtHR, followed by 10 Human Rights Organisations and others in 2015 after they received a judgment from the UK Investigatory Powers Tribunal. All three cases were joined together, and the Court exceptionally decided that there would be a hearing.

The result of these three cases has the potential to impact the current UK surveillance regime under the Investigatory Powers Act. This legal framework has already been strongly criticized by the Court of Justice of the European Union in Watson . A favourable judgment in this case will finally push the UK Government to constrain these wide-ranging surveillance powers, implement greater judicial control and introduce greater protection such as notifying citizens that they have been put under surveillance.

Daniel Carey of Deighton Pierce Glynn, solicitor for Big Brother Watch, Open Rights Group, English PEN and Constanze Kurz, said:

Historically, it has required a ruling from this Court before improvements in domestic law in this area are made. Edward Snowden broke that cycle by setting in motion last year’s Investigatory Power Act, but my clients are asking the Court to limit bulk interception powers in a much more meaningful way and to require significant improvements in how such intrusive powers are controlled and reported.

Griff Ferris, Researcher at Big Brother Watch, said:

This case raises long-standing issues relating to the UK Government’s unwarranted intrusion into people’s private lives, giving the intelligence agencies free reign to indiscriminately intercept and monitor people’s private communications without evidence or suspicion.

UK citizens who are not suspected of any wrongdoing should be able to live their lives in both the physical and the digital world safely and securely without such Government intrusion.

If the Court finds that the UK Government infringed UK citizens’ right to privacy, this should put further pressure on the Government to implement measures to ensure that its current surveillance regime doesn’t make the same mistakes.

Antonia Byatt, Interim Director of English PEN, said:

More than four years since Edward Snowden’s revelations and nearly one year since the Investigatory Powers Act was passed, this is a landmark hearing that seeks to safeguard our privacy and our right to freedom of expression.

The UK now has the most repressive surveillance legislation of any western democracy, this is a vital opportunity to challenge the unprecedented erosion of our private lives and liberty to communicate.

Jim Killock, Executive Director of Open Rights Group, said:

Mass surveillance must end. Our democratic values are threatened by the fact of pervasive, constant state surveillance. This case gives the court the opportunity to rein it back, and to show the British Government that there are clear limits. Hoovering everything up and failing to explain what you are doing is not acceptable.

Advertisements
Read more gcnews.htm at MelonFarmers.co.uk

arms of the british governmentjpg logoAmong the many unpleasant things in the Investigatory Powers Act that was officially signed into law this week, one that has not gained as much attention is the apparent ability for the UK government to undermine encryption and demand surveillance backdoors.As the bill was passing through Parliament, several organizations noted their alarm at section 217 which obliged ISPs, telcos and other communications providers to let the government know in advance of any new products and services being deployed and allow the government to demand technical changes to software and systems.

Communications Service Providers (CSP) subject to a technical capacity notice must notify the Government of new products and services in advance of their launch, in order to allow consideration of whether it is necessary and proportionate to require the CSP to provide a technical capability on the new service.

As per the final wording of the law, comms providers on the receiving end of a technical capacity notice will be obliged to do various things on demand for government snoops — such as disclosing details of any system upgrades and removing electronic protection on encrypted communications.

Read more UK Parliament Watch at MelonFarmers.co.uk

House of Commons logo The UK government has introduced an amendment to the Investigatory Powers Bill currently going through Parliament, to make ensure that data retention orders cannot require ISPs to collect and retain third party data. The Home Office had previously said that they didn’t need powers to force ISPs to collect third party data, but until now refused to provide guarantees in law.Third party data is defined as communications data (sender, receiver, date, time etc) for messages sent within a website as opposed to messages sent by more direct methods such as email. It is obviously a bit tricky for ISPs to try and decode what is going on within websites as messaging data formats are generally proprietary, and in the general case, simply not de-cypherable by ISPs.

The Government will therefore snoop on messages sent, for example via Facebook, by demanding the communication details from Facebook themselves.

Read more UK Government Watch at MelonFarmers.co.uk

the haystack video The Haystack is a new documentary , released today by Scenes of Reason , bringing together leading lights for and against the UK’s Investigatory Powers Bill. This unprecedented piece of legislation, which is now under parliamentary scrutiny, seeks to affirm and expand the surveillance remit of UK security services and other departments, including new powers for the police to access internet connection records — a database of the public’s online activity over the previous 12 months.

The film provides an excellent roundup of arguments on both sides of the tortuous surveillance debate, including Conservative MP Johnny Mercer echoing the well-worn refrain, if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. Jim Killock of the Open Rights Group , speaking at the film’s launch, quipped that Mr Mercer might feel a bit different if it were the left-wing government of Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell wielding these powers. Indeed, as far-right parties attract support around Europe and the world, the likelihood increases of tremendous state surveillance becoming the plaything of ever more abusive regimes.

The immense capabilities contained within the bill are unpalatable in the hands of any authority — they are all too easily harnessed to undermine perfectly reasonable political opposition and judicial work. By way of example, the film outlines one such case where the current UK government improperly gained access to privileged details of a court case against it. In this light, the bill seems an intolerable threat to democracy and free expression.

Voices of concern from the security community , such as Sir David Omand, ex-GCHQ chief, explain that precautions against terrorism require more spying. Others reject this, noting that security services have failed to act on intelligence when they do have it — spending enormous sums on digital surveillance only reduces their efficacy in the realm of traditional detective work. Moreover, those costs, to be borne by government and industry, are excessive at a time of cuts to other public services designed to protect us from more conventional enemies, such as disease.

The debate is winding — this film helps straighten things out.

Watch the whole documentary here .

Read more UK Parliament Watch at MelonFarmers.co.uk

House of Commons logo Tuesday saw the first debate of the Investigatory Powers Bill in the House of Commons.The debate raised some useful arguments, but many speeches avoided the key point: that the Bill would bring in a huge, unparalleled extension of surveillance powers that had never been debated by MPs before.

The Open Rights Group, ORG, will be proposing amendments to change the Bill. It’s unfit for purpose at the moment, permitting and extending mass surveillance. We’re particularly concerned about the lack of discussion of the filter which turns retained data into a massive searchable police database of your location, phone and Internet data. We’ve delved into the significant new powers for the police below.

Open Rights Group logo The debate on the Investigatory Powers Bill has focused a lot on the new extension to police powers, and the collection of Internet Connection Records to keep a log of everyone’s web browsing. Critics like myself worry about the ability this creates to see into everyone’s most intimate thoughts and feelings; while proponents are prone to say that the police will never have time to look at irrelevant material about innocent people.

However, the really novel and threatening part of this proposal isn’t being given anywhere near the level of attention needed.

The truly groundbreaking proposal is the filter , which could be seen as a government Google search to trawl your call records, Internet and location data. The filter is clearly named so that it sounds helpful, perhaps boring or else maybe something that filters down information so that it is privacy friendly. It is anything but. It is so intrusive and worrying, I would rather you think of the Filter as the PHILTRE: the Police Held Internet Lets Them Read Everything.

Remember when these proposals started, back in the late 2000s, under the last Labour government? Maybe not, but that’s how long Home Office officials have been trying to make this happen. Their original plan was to build a single database that would store everything they could find about who you email, message and what you read?, and where you are, as logged by your mobile phone. Place all that information in a single searchable database and the dangers become obvious. So obvious that the Conservative opposition was up in arms.

How on earth would you stop abuse, if all this information was placed into a single database? Surely, it would lead to fishing trips, or police searches to find lists of all the environmental protesters, trades unionists or libertarians, and to identify who it is that seem to be their leaders? How would you stop the police from producing pre-arrest lists of miscreants before demonstrations, or from deciding to infiltrate certain public meetings? Indeed, who would be able to resist using the database from working out who was at the location of relatively petty offenses, perhaps of littering or vandalism, or calculating who had been speeding by examining everyone’s mobile phone location data.

So the current government does not want try to hoard everyone’s data into a single database. Instead, they’ve come up with the PHILTRE, which can query lots of smaller, separate databases held by each private company. As this PHILTRE can be applied to separate data stores, all at once, we are in effect back with a proposal for a single government database and all the same problems — but in a way that government can claim that it is not a single government database .

But as long as the data can be queried and sorted in parallel, it becomes immensely powerful and just as intrusive. For instance, for a journalist to protect against revealing a whistleblower, they would need to avoid not just phoning them, but meeting them while both were carrying their mobiles and creating matching location logs. All of the profiling and fishing expeditions are just as easily achievable.

Most worrying is the authorisation process. Police, agencies and tax authorities will continue to authorise their own access of our personal data, just as they do today with phone call records — there’s not a judge anywhere near the day to day use of this search facility.

The Home Office is selling this Google-style search through the population’s mind as a privacy enhancement. Only the relevant search results will be returned. Masses of irrelevant information about other people will not have to be given to officers. They give the example of mobile phone mast data — where the filter could cut the required information down to just that about the person you need to know about.

This might sometimes be true. But two things make me suspect this is a highly partial story. For one thing, the search engine can tell you about the kinds of things it thinks it might tell you — perhaps social graphs, location histories, dodgy website visits, organisations supported — before you ask it. This is to educate and help police get the right information. It is also an invitation to make increasing use of the tool. If it is limited in its purpose, this seems an unnecessary step.

Secondly, there are no limits to what results the search engine might be asked to produce. Nothing for instance, says that only a single person or place can be searched against, so that only one person’s contacts might be returned, or just the people at a single crime scene. Thus the prospect of fishing trips is given no legislative limit. The only serious limit is that this information might be kept for no longer than 12 months.

For years privacy campaigners have been trying to explain how your web history and location data can be dangerous tools for personal and whole population surveillance. Now it seems the UK government wants to engage in a whole population experiment to show us what it really means. Parliament, the courts, but most of all, you, can help stop them.

Read more UK Government Watch at MelonFarmers.co.uk

letter writing The UK’s investigatory powers bill receives its second reading on Tuesday. At present the draft law fails to meet international standards for surveillance powers. It requires significant revisions to do so.

First, a law that gives public authorities generalised access to electronic communications contents compromises the essence of the fundamental right to privacy and may be illegal. The investigatory powers bill does this with its bulk interception warrants and bulk equipment interference warrants .

Second, international standards require that interception authorisations identify a specific target — a person or premises — for surveillance. The investigatory powers bill also fails this standard because it allows targeted interception warrants to apply to groups or persons, organisations, or premises.

Third, those who authorise interceptions should be able to verify a reasonable suspicion on the basis of a factual case. The investigatory powers bill does not mention reasonable suspicion — or even suspects — and there is no need to demonstrate criminal involvement or a threat to national security.

These are international standards found in judgments of the European court of justice and the European court of human rights, and in the recent opinion of the UN special rapporteur for the right to privacy. At present the bill fails to meet these standards — the law is unfit for purpose. The stories you need to read, in one handy email Read more

If the law is not fit for purpose, unnecessary and expensive litigation will follow, and further reform will be required. We urge members of the Commons and the Lords to ensure that the future investigatory powers legislation meets these international standards. Such a law could lead the world.

Paul Ridge, Jaani Riordan, Patrick Roche, Deborah Russo, Adam Sandell, Joseph Savirimuthu, Anton Schutz, Dr Kirsteen Shields, Bethany Shiner, Gus Silverman, Natasha Simonsen, Martha Spurrier, Alison Stanley, Angela Stevens, Dr Sujitha Subramanian, Samantha Taylor, Gwawr Thomas, Anna Thwaites, Chris Topping, Dr Maria Tzanou, Anthony Vaughan, Dr Asma Vranaki, John Wadham, Adam Wagner, Amos Waldman, Liam Walker, Tony Ward, Camille Warren, Sue Willman, Dr Maggie Wykes, Adrienne Yong, Dr Alison Young, Dr Hakeem O Yusuf, Dr Aldo Zammit Borda, Dr Reuven Ziegler, Dr Stephen J Murdoch University College London, Helen Mowatt, Imran Khan, Kemi Spector, Dr Gavin W Anderson University of Glasgow, Colin Murray Newcastle University, Aidan O’Donnell University of Strathclyde, Professor Daniel Wilsher City University, Mikhil Karnik, Conor McCormick Queen’s University Belfast, Professor Valsamis Mitsilegas Queen Mary University of London, Graeme Hall, Christopher McCorkindale University of Strathclyde,

Read more UK Government Watch at MelonFarmers.co.uk

UN logo The Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy has heavily criticised the Investigatory Powers Bill in his first report to the Human Rights Council.

The report calls for disproportionate, privacy-intrusive measures such as bulk surveillance and bulk hacking as contemplated in the Investigatory Powers Bill [to] be outlawed rather than legitimised.

Jim Killock, Executive Director of Open Rights Group responded to the report’s findings:

The Special Rapporteur’s report is yet another damning criticism of the Investigatory Powers Bill. Not only does it call for the disproportionate powers in the Bill to be ‘outlawed rather than legitimised’, it points out that the Bill does not comply with recent human rights rulings, which means it could be open to legal challenges.

The report also voices another serious concern — that the impact of this extreme legislation will be felt around the world, and copied by other countries.

The Government cannot continue to ignore the overwhelming evidence that the IPB is a deeply flawed piece of legislation.