As the head of MI5 launches a push for unparalleled powers, will he answer challenging questions on why banning encryption, or weakening it through compulsory backdoors, won't make us all less safe? By Julian Huppert
Andrew Parker, the Head of MI5, has called for more up-to-date surveillance laws in an interview with the BBC, where he also stated that communications companies have an ethical responsibility to alert the authorities to potential threats
. Parker said:
MI5 and others need to be able to navigate the internet to find terrorist communication, we need to be able to use data sets to be able to join the dots to be able to find and stop the terrorists who mean us harm before they are able to bring
plots to fruition.
We have been pretty successful at that in recent years but it is becoming more difficult to do it as technology changes faster and faster [and] encryption comes in.
The government is currently planning renewed attempts to pass the Communications Data Bill, also known as the Snoopers' Charter . They are expected to bring forward a new version of the Bill in October.
Commentator and encryption expert Bruce Schneier commented:
For most of human history, surveillance has been expensive. Over the last couple of decades, it has become incredibly cheap and almost ubiquitous. That a few bits and pieces are becoming expensive again isn't a cause for alarm.
The government has also been briefing the communication industry about the extended snooping plan.
Theresa May has already met with companies including BT, TalkTalk, EE, Vodaphone, and Virgin Media to discuss plans to bring forward a new draft of the Communications Data Bill in October. Non-ISP networks and civil liberties groups have
reportedly been summoned to separate meetings.
Striking unions could face censorship on their use of social media, the TUC's general secretary has told the BBC. A consultation document linked to the proposed Trade Union Bill suggests unions involved in industrial action should give two weeks
notice if they plan to campaign via social media.
The consultation document suggests unions taking industrial action must give notice of whether it will be using social media, specifically Facebook, Twitter, blogs, setting up websites and what those blogs and websites will set out .
Ministers said social media censorship would not apply to posts by individuals.
The Government is working with the UK music industry, BBFC and digital service providers like Vevo and YouTube to take further action to protect children from viewing inappropriate videos on the internet.
Many children have easy access to music videos online and some parents are rightly concerned that some of these contain imagery or lyrics not appropriate for a young audience.
In October 2014 a Government-backed pilot to introduce age ratings for online music videos was launched by the BBFC and BPI in conjunction with Vevo and YouTube, working with major UK music labels to introduce a new ratings system that would
allow digital service providers to clearly display an easily recognisable age rating on videos posted on the web.
UK labels supply videos ahead of release to the BBFC, and then pass on the rating and guidance given by the BBFC when releasing their videos to the two digital service providers involved -- Vevo and YouTube - who display it when the videos are
Building on the pilot, the Government has now as part of its manifesto commitment agreed with the UK music industry and with the digital service providers that the measures trialled will be now be made permanent for videos produced in the UK by
artists who are represented by major labels.
As well as working with Sony Music UK, Universal Music UK and Warner Music UK, the Government is also encouraging independent UK music labels to follow suit so that the digital service providers can display appropriate age ratings on their videos
too. We can announce today that independent UK music labels will now take part in a six month pilot phase.
Joanna Shields, Minister for Internet Safety and Security, said:
Movies in the cinema and music DVDs are age rated to inform the viewer and help parents to make informed choices. We welcome this voluntary step from industry to bring internet services in line with the offline world.
Keeping children safe as they experience and enjoy all the benefits the Internet has to offer is a key priority for this Government's One Nation approach to help families across Britain. We will continue to work with industry to develop ways to
help parents to better protect children online from inappropriate music videos with explicit adult or violent content.
Clear age ratings are the first step but initial findings of independent research commissioned by the BBFC shows that up to 60 per cent of children aged 10 to 17 are watching music videos that they do not think their parents would approve of.
To help address this, Vevo are exploring plans to link these age ratings to additional technology on their platform that can support age controls.
On YouTube, when record labels upload a UK-produced music video rated 18 by the BBFC, they are able to age-gate access to users signed in as over 18. The new age ratings also complement YouTube's existing restricted mode which helps parents
screen out content they may not feel is right for their children. To date 132 music videos have been submitted by UK labels to the BBFC for certification and, of these, only one has been given an 18-rating -- Dizzee Rascal's 'Couple of Stacks'.
Geoff Taylor, BPI Chief Executive, said:
Britain is a world leader in making exciting and original music, in part because our artists have a freedom to express themselves that we rightly cherish. While we must continue to uphold this principle, it is equally important that music videos
are broadcast in a responsible way and that parents are given the tools to make more informed viewing decisions on behalf of their families.
UK record labels value the opportunity to work with Government to build on the pilot and, as a key next step, we encourage Vevo, YouTube and other digital service providers to look at how they can make filters available to parents so they can
use age ratings to screen out any inappropriate content.
David Cooke, Director of the BBFC, said:
We welcome this agreement. Parents want to see clear and recognisable age ratings on online music videos and we look forward to building on the success of the pilot, in partnership with the industry, so that the public can have the trusted
signposting which they seek.
Nic Jones, EVP International at Vevo, said:
Vevo have been participating in the BBFC's age ratings pilot since its inception and welcome news that that scheme is to be permanently backed by UK major labels. We are very pleased that the UK independent labels -- such an important part of
the UK music landscape will now be part of this scheme. At Vevo we support artists and their creativity, however, we understand the importance and value that age ratings provide parents and music fans to help inform their viewing, enabling them
to make choices about what content they wish to watch.
Vevo will be working with the BBFC as the scheme rolls out to make sure that age ratings are displayed in the most effective way on our platform, to provide the necessary guidance for audiences in a clear way. We are also committed to making the
age ratings work as effectively as possible and will continue to explore how additional technology on the platform can support age controls to ensure that explicit content is watched only by age appropriate audiences.
Candice Morrissey, Content Partnerships Manager at YouTube EMEA, said:
We have been working with the participants in this pilot to help them display the BBFC's age ratings on their music videos on YouTube. These ratings are in addition to the controls we already provide on YouTube including the ability for
uploaders to add age warnings to videos and a restricted mode.
Government and industry are also working together to look at how lessons learned in the UK could help international partners who share our concerns to adopt a similar approach.
Offsite Article: The Telegraph recommends the top 7 outrage generating music videos
The Telegraph has run a piece that the Daily Mail would be proud of. An article seemingly bemoaning that some of the most outrageous music videos that will escape the BBFC music censors due to them not being British. And of course the
Telegraph glories in its lurid descriptions of the video with lots of illustrations of the best bits.
And for the record, the recommended music videos are:
Former MP Julian Huppert reveals the aptly dated law presumably used to authorise GCHQ state snooping. And guess who's government authorised this mass invasion of privacy including all of the nation's private family baby pictures?
For years, many of us were concerned about how much British state surveillance was authorised under RIPA, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. Access to information presented as essential for national security and preventing major
crime was used, for example, to check whether people were sneaking into the wrong school catchment area. However, it wasn't until the Snowden revelations came out that the public even started to realise just how much could be scrutinised.
Even then, there was a very lacklustre reaction from within the UK, especially when compared to the response in countries like the USA and Germany. Why is this? Well, probably because whereas they have experiences of the Stasi and McCarthyism, we
have James Bond.
But we have now at last reached agreement that RIPA needs to be rewritten, although many of us have a huge concern that the Home Secretary will follow the approach she tried to use in the rejected communications data bill, and seek to extend
powers very widely. Last time, her efforts led a cross-party cross-House committee to describe the Home Office information as fanciful and misleading -- will she have learned her lesson this time?
But even if RIPA were fixed, to protect privacy as well as security, there would still be a gaping hole in our protections from excessive state surveillance. It's a well hidden hole. So most people are simply unaware of its existence. And
appropriately enough, it dates back to 1984.
The Telecommunications Act 1984 is an important, but somewhat technical piece of legislation, detailing how BT was to be privatised, and creating Oftel (now Ofcom). If you read it, you can go through 87 pages of technical language about the
duties of the Director General of Telecommunications, what should happen about billing disputes and much more. And then you reach a very interesting clause, tucked away in miscellaneous, after the worthy power to provide grants to promote the
interests of disabled persons. So well tucked away, in fact, that it was never even debated in parliament.
Clause 94 Directions in the interests of national security etc. is an astonishing piece of legislation. It's worth reading in full
It allows any Secretary of State to give to Ofcom or any providers of public electronic communications networks such directions of a general character as appear to the Secretary of State to be necessary in the interests of national security or
relations with the government of a country or territory outside the United Kingdom. They can also be instructed to do, or not to do any particular thing specified, and they have to do this notwithstanding any other duty they would
otherwise have under telecommunications legislation.
That's a pretty astonishingly broad power -- such people can be ordered to do or not do anything at all, and not even just in the interests of our own national security, but if it would help relations with another country. So if the US --
or Russia or China, in theory -- asked us to make a telecoms company put US-supplied black boxes of unknown purpose on their network, the government has the power do that without even having to ask for a reason.
But there is a safeguard. The law says that the Secretary of State has to lay before parliament a copy of every such direction. This would then allow parliament to be alert to any misuse ... except that the clause goes on to say unless [the
Secretary of State] is of the opinion that disclosure of the direction is against the interests of national security or relations with the government of a country or territory outside the United Kingdom, or the commercial interests of any person.
So if it might risk our national security, which is fair enough, or might annoy someone else, be they another country, a company or an individual, then it is kept secret -- no one is allowed to disclose anything about it.
So if the US asked us to make BT install some spyware, or to hand over user data, no one can be told about it if that would upset either the US or BT.
And in fact there has been no scrutiny of these orders. I spent some considerable time as an MP pushing on this, trying to find out how often these extraordinary powers were used, and who checked they were appropriate. I got nowhere, with the
security minister James Brokenshire saying: If the question relates to section 94 of the Telecommunications Act, then I am afraid I can neither confirm nor deny any issues in relation to the utilisation or otherwise of section 94.
This urgently needs to be fixed. Is there a place for such powers for national security? Well, maybe -- but there should be a case made for it based on evidence, and ideally a judge should approve the directions, in secret if necessary, but
subject to substantial oversight -- from someone allowed to tell us if they find any problems.
As it is now, we have secret, all-powerful directions, with no reporting and no oversight. Big Brother would be proud.
Section 94: Directions in the interests of national security etc.
(1) The Secretary of State may, after consultation with a person to whom this section applies, give to that person such directions of a general character as appear to the Secretary of State to be necessary in the interests of national security
or relations with the government of a country or territory outside the United Kingdom.
(2) If it appears to the Secretary of State to be necessary to do so in the interests of national security or relations with the government of a country or territory outside the United Kingdom, he may, after consultation with a person to whom
this section applies, give to that person a direction requiring him (according to the circumstances of the case) to do, or not to do, a particular thing specified in the direction.
(2A) The Secretary of State shall not give a direction under subsection (1) or (2) unless he believes that the conduct required by the direction is proportionate to what is sought to be achieved by that conduct.
(3) A person to whom this section applies shall give effect to any direction given to him by the Secretary of State under this section notwithstanding any other duty imposed on him by or under Part 1 or Chapter 1 of Part 2 of the Communications
Act 2003 and, in the case of a direction to a provider of a public electronic communications network, notwithstanding that it relates to him in a capacity other than as the provider of such a network.
(4) The Secretary of State shall lay before each House of Parliament a copy of every direction given under this section unless he is of opinion that disclosure of the direction is against the interests of national security or relations with the
government of a country or territory outside the United Kingdom, or the commercial interests of any person.
(5) A person shall not disclose, or be required by virtue of any enactment or otherwise to disclose, anything done by virtue of this section if the Secretary of State has notified him that the Secretary of State is of the opinion that
disclosure of that thing is against the interests of national security or relations with the government of a country or territory outside the United Kingdom, or the commercial interests of some other person.
(6) The Secretary of State may, with the approval of the Treasury, make grants to providers of public electronic communications networks for the purpose of defraying or contributing towards any losses they may sustain by reason of compliance
with the directions given under this section.
(7) There shall be paid out of money provided by Parliament any sums required by the Secretary of State for making grants under this section.
(8) This section applies to OFCOM and to providers of public electronic communications networks.
The following Freedom of Information request has been lodged with the Information Commissioner's Office on the 10th August 2015 about the status of ATVOD in regards to being liable to service Freedom of Information requests:
Dear Information Commissioner's Office,
1. Minutes and records of all discussions or documents relating to the consideration of whether ATVOD should be accountable under the FoIA.
2. Representations made by ATVOD as to the process to determine their accountability under the act.
I'm not really sure why there should be a debate. ATVOD reports directly to the government and also to the official state censors Ofcom. In addition ATVOD enforces censorship rules specified directly by the two government departments: The
Department of Culture media & Sport; and the Crown Prosecution Service.
ATVOD claims to be a 'co-regulator' representing both the government and the industry, but given that ATVOD has spent its entire life crucifying a large section of the UK internet trade, it seems to be a bit of a one sided co-regulation
Surely ATVOD is a state censor, and as such should be open to freedom of information requests.
New proposals to make online copyright infringement punishable by ten years in jail risks punishing users who share links and files online more harshly than ordinary, physical theft. Prison for filesharers
In the past file sharers have been threatened with criminal charges, despite not seeking any financial gain or running a business. They may be misguided, but we have to ask whether they are really posing a risk to the public and therefore
deserving a criminal conviction. Now in 2015 the Intellectual Property Office are suggesting people like them should face the possibility of a 10-year jail sentence.
The IPO has a consultation on proposals to increase the maximum prison sentence for criminal online copyright infringement to 10 years, aiming to match sanctions for online copyright infringement with physical copyright infringement. The logic
being that similar offences should attract similar penalties, regardless of the platform used.
Whilst we agree with the IPO's logic, their proposals are problematic. The existing offence they are referring to, as outlined in section 107 of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act, can be brought against both:
Criminals who deliberately infringe copyright by operating filesharing services; and
People who share links and files so that they affect prejudicially the copyright owner.
This second offence is not only vague and broad in definition, but also requires no consideration of the intent of the offender.
It would be easy for a few misguided people to be caught up in this law. For those who share their karaoke songs with no criminal intent, to be threatened with the kind of lengthy sentence that hardened thieves and violent offenders often escape
is just inappropriate. It also places excessive power in the hands of copyright enforcement organisations, who can claim to such individuals that their estimations of financial damage could result in a possible jail sentence.
Similarly, businesses who operate legitimately may be worried or threatened because of this strict liability offence. They cannot argue that they have no intention to harm. The stakes are very high.
ORG believes that if the IPO want to change the sentencing, they have to reform the underlying offence.
The question we have to ask is, are these people a risk to the public?
The High Court recently overturned private copying exceptions introduced last year by the UK Government, once again outlawing the habits of millions of citizens. The Intellectual Property Office now explains that ripping a CD in iTunes is no
longer permitted, and neither is backing up your computer if it contains copyrighted content.
Late last year the UK Government legalized copying for private use, a practice which many citizens already believed to be legal. The UK Intellectual Property Office noted that the changes were in the best interest of consumers and that
they would bring copyright law into the 21st century.
However, the new regulation was short-lived. Fearing a loss of income several music groups objected at the High Court, which subsequently agreed that the new legislation is unlawful .
As a result the changes were overturned last month and the previous limitations were reinstated. To find out what the public can and can't do under the law, TorrentFreak reached out to the UK Intellectual Property Office, which provided some very
clear answers. A spokesperson explained:
It is now unlawful to make private copies of copyright works you own, without permission from the copyright holder -- this includes format shifting from one medium to another
The IPO specifically notes that copying a CD to an MP3 player is not permitted. This means that iTunes' popular ripping feature, which Apple actively promotes during the software's installation, is illegal. Also, under the current law iTunes is
actively facilitating copyright infringement by promoting their CD-ripping functionality. This means that the company could face significant claims for damages.
There is more though, as the law affects much more than just ripping CDs. Simply copying a song in an automated computer backup or storing a copy on a private cloud hosting service is also against the law. The Government spokesperson said:
...it includes creating back-ups without permission from the copyright holder as this necessarily involves an act of copying,
Strictly speaking this means that UK citizens are not allowed to make a backup of their computer. After all, pretty much every computer contains copyrighted media. Needless to say, this turns almost the entire country into outlaws .
The Government is not happy with the High Court decision but it hasn't decided whether it will propose revised private copying exceptions in the future. Copyright holders previously suggested allowing private copying in exchange for a tax on
blank CDs and hard drives. The spokesperson said:
As this is a complex area of law, the Government is carefully considering the implications of the ruling and the available options, before deciding any future course of action.
Commenting on the announcement [of a government consultation of ways to censor internet porn], ATVOD Chief Executive Pete Johnson said:
ATVOD welcomes the government's ongoing commitment to protecting children from online pornography...
ATVOD urges the adult industry to take this opportunity to develop its own robust proposals to address the problem of offshore adult websites...
ATVOD will continue to discuss with policy makers further options for reducing the exposure of children to pornography and other potentially harmful VOD material on websites based both inside and outside the UK.
The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) of Northern Ireland have defended their prosecution of James McConnell, the Christian preacher who called Islam Satanic.
In a letter sent to the National Secular Society, the PPS have doubled-down on their decision to take the case to trial, after the NSS warned that their actions had created a chilling effect on free speech. A Christian organisation warned
that many churches will be wary of what they place on the internet until this case is heard and the law is clarified.
Pastor McConnell is being prosecuted under the Communications Act 2003 for sending a grossly offensive message. The Pastor said during a sermon that Islam was a doctrine spawned in hell and that while there may be good
Muslims in the UK, he didn't trust Muslims generally.
In response to a letter of concern written by the National Secular Society urging the PPS to reconsider its course of action, the Prosecution Service have claimed that their controversial decision is in the public interest , and have vowed
to press on despite a raft of criticism from Christian groups, the National Secular Society and an imam, Dr Muhammad Al-Hussaini, who said he strongly upholds the moral right of Pastor McConnell and myself, as Christian and Muslim, to disagree
about matters of doctrine and belief.
The PPS added in their response to the National Secular Society that they had balanced the relevant public interest considerations in their treatment of the case, but that due to the gravity of the preacher's sermon and the circumstances of the offence and the offender
they were right to deal with the matter by way of an informed warning.
Pastor McConnell rejected this warning, which would have remained on his criminal record for 12 months, and this led to the case proceeding to trial at the PPS's insistence.
Extraordinarily, the complaint about McConnell's sermon reportedly came from Dr Raied Al-Wazzan, who recently praised the Islamic State and said that Mosul had become the most peaceful city in the world under IS rule. You can go from
east to west of the city without fear, he claimed. Al-Wazzan is now described as the main prosecution witness in the case against McConnell.
There has been widespread condemnation of the PPS's actions, but Assistant Director Michael Agnew wrote that he remained of the view that the evidence Test for Prosecution is met and that a prosecution was justified given that McConnell
has refused to accept the warning.
NSS campaigns manager Stephen Evans said:
This baffling decision to persist with the prosecution of Pastor McConnell represents a reckless and grievous encroachment upon his - and everybody else's - fundamental right to free expression.
In our view Pastor McConnell was well within his rights to refuse a warning that would have remained on his criminal record for a year, particularly given that he clearly did not incite violence in his sermon and the PPS do not even appear to
claim that he did. Given that, the PPS's behaviour seems even more extraordinary.
Whatever the outcome of this case, the actions of the Public Prosecution Service are likely to have a chilling effect on everyone's freedom to speak openly about their beliefs.
In an open and free society, we should all feel able to express our beliefs and opinions without fear of criminal sanction - regardless of how unpalatable others may find them.
The weapon of 'offense' is increasingly being used to stifle free expression. The desire to live in a harmonious and tolerant society is a noble one, but will not be achieved by the suppression of fundamental freedoms.
We again urge the PPS to drop this case and issue a full apology to Mr. McConnell.
The Guardian has published an article presumably based on a government press release:
David Cameron is to give pornography websites one last chance to produce an effective voluntary scheme for age-restricted controls on their sites or he will introduce legislation that could see them shut down.
In a consultation to be launched in the autumn, the government will seek views on how best to introduce measures to further restrict under-18s' access to pornographic websites.
The industry, in the shape of either UK-based websites or internet service providers, will be given an opportunity to develop proposals to block content through payment providers, such as advertisers and other means.
The consultation will also consider the best form of legislation should voluntary agreements not work. A regulatory approach could see primary legislation introduced to make it an offence in the UK to publish pornography online without age
verification controls, possibly with a regulator to oversee and enforce controls.
The government recognises the spread of the internet makes it a challenge to find a form of legislation that would cover such sites both in the UK and internationally. The government has raised the prospect of setting up a pornography regulator
to oversee the process and fine firms that breach either legislation or the voluntary guidelines.
The aim is to ensure that the rules that apply offline apply online, giving parents the peace of mind of knowing that their children can use the internet safely.
Cameron said his government was working:
To make the internet a safer place for children, the next step in this campaign is to curb access to harmful pornographic content, which is currently far too widely available. I want to see age restrictions put into place or these websites will
face being shut down.
The minister for internet safety and security, Joanna Shields, said:
As a result of our work with industry, more than 90% of UK consumers are offered the choice to easily configure their internet service through family-friendly filters -- something we take great pride in having achieved. It's a gold standard
that surpasses those of other countries.
Whilst great progress has been made, we remain acutely aware of the risks and dangers that young people face online. This is why we are committed to taking action to protect children from harmful content. Companies delivering adult content in
the UK must take steps to make sure these sites are behind age verification controls.
The government has said in a press release that ministers are calling youngsters to have the automatic right to demand the deletion of pictures and information held about them online.
Ministers are backing proposals for a string of internet rights for the under-18s to prevent them being embarrassed later on in life.
Indiscreet pictures or texts can blight job prospects, university offers or school places. However, even if potentially compromising content is deleted from a post, it can still turn up on search engines such as Google or on other websites. The
former managing director of Google in Europe and one-time Facebook boss, Baroness Joanna Shields is to lead the new internet rights policy group.
The rights that businesses and groups are being urged to sign up to include giving every youngster the right to easily edit or delete all content they have created .
The move comes as the European Union also prepares to allow adults to demand any online images or text posted by them when they were under 18 be taken down. It will be known as the right to erasure
Under the UK plan, websites will be encouraged to have 'delete buttons that young people will be able to use to request information about them be removed.
In a decision of great potential importance, the Divisional Court (a Lord Justice and High Court Judge sitting together) have declared section 1 of DRIPA, an Act of Parliament passed in 2014, to contravene the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights as
it was interpreted in the Digital Rights Ireland judgment of April 2014.
Digital Rights Ireland declared invalid the Data Retention Directive of 2006, an EU measure which had been promoted by the UK and which required all Member States to retain telecommunications data for periods of between 6 and 24 months.
DRIPA (enacted under emergency procedures in July 2014, in only four days) was the UK's reaction to Digital Rights Ireland. Its purpose was to provide a statutory basis, replacing the now-invalid Directive, for the requirement that service
providers in the UK retain certain categories of data (e.g. sender/recipient, date/time/duration of communication, but not content or web browsing history) for 12 months.
The Divisional Court judgment applied the Digital Rights Ireland principles to DRIPA, disapplying the Act of Parliament to the extent that it failed to respect the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.
It remains to be seen whether the Government will appeal and, if so, how quickly that appeal will be heard.
WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Snapchat could all potentially be banned under the latest revision of the Government's Snoopers Charter that's being drafted at the moment.
The Investigatory Powers Bill, mentioned in the
2015 Queen's Speech , would allow the government to ban instant messaging apps that refuse to remove end-to-end encryption.
Home Secretary Theresa May reportedly plans to push the bill forward as quickly as possible, putting it in front of the Government by the Autumn.
The unconfirmed ban has caused an outcry on social media with reactions ranging from anger to disbelief that the Government would be able to take on companies like Apple, Google and Facebook.
David Cameron hinted at such repressive measures earlier this year in the aftermath of the Paris shootings when he claimed that when implementing new surveillance powers he would have no problem banning services like Snapchat if they didn't
comply. He threatened:
In our country, do we want to allow a means of communication between people which even in extremes, with a signed warrant from the Home Secretary personally that we cannot read.
My answer to that question is no we must not. If I am prime minister, I will make sure it is a comprehensive piece of legislation that makes sure we do not allow terrorist safe spaces to communicate with each other.
damning report on government surveillance however , leading computer experts at MIT have claimed that the proposals by both the US and UK governments have 'failed to account for the risks' that are inherently associated with removing
encryption. The report states:
These proposals are unworkable in practice, raise enormous legal and ethical questions, and would undo progress on security at a time when Internet vulnerabilities are causing extreme economic harm.