UK Government Watch

 2015: Oct-Dec



 Update: Rated U for infantile...

UK Minister of Censorship Culture looks to extending BBFC music video ratings internationally


Link Here 26th December 2015  full story: BBFC Online Music Censors...Scheme for UK music publishers to get BBFC rating for videos
ed vaizeyEd Vaizey, the Tory culture minister, has pledged to try and convince international partners to adopt the British idea of providing age ratings for music videos on the likes of YouTube.

Currently videos from foreign, and in particular American companies, are unrated on Youtube.

Online music videos from the British arms of Universal Music, Sony Music and Warner Music are submitted for age BBFC ratings if they meet a long list of specifications under which they would qualify for a 12, 15 or 18 rating.

The current system means that while UK-made music videos which are only suitable for adults (of which there are hardly any) are captured by online parental filters, those produced in America are not.

Mr Vaizey revealed that the government will attempt to convince Britain's global allies to adopt the ratings system when challenged in a parliamentary written question. Vaizey said:

We were pleased therefore to announce recently that the industry and the BBFC were putting their online music videos ratings scheme on a permanent footing and extending it to include videos produced in the UK by independent labels, as well as by major UK labels.

We welcome this voluntary action by industry and will now be looking at how the lessons learned in the UK could help international partners adopt a similar approach.

Government is committed to working with labels and platforms towards seeing age rating on all online music videos.

In fact there are hardly any music video that have been rated 18. More typically videos are rated 12 or 15 for strong language. And of course such language is notably difficult to encode into international standards.

Definitely a policy more about politicking than practicality.

 

 Update: Any offence, no matter how small...

Theresa May states the internet snooping powers won't be restricted to serious crimes but will be used to target internet insults, trolling and bullying


Link Here 26th December 2015  full story: Snooper's Charter...Tories re-start massive programme of communications snooping
Theresa MayThe governments invasive mass snooping laws will be used to bring online bullies and trolls to justice, the Home Secretary says.

Theresa May reportedly says that surveillance powers, unveiled under the Investigatory Powers Bill last month, will be used by police and spooks to track down and identify anonymous cyberbullies. The Times reports that 'officials'  will be able to unmask users going by various aliases.

Previously the government has maintained that the far reaching Snooper's Charter would be restricted to tracking serious crimes such as terrorism and child abuse.

Offsite Article: Theresa May wants to see your internet history, so we thought it was only fair to ask for hers

26th December 2015. See  article from independent.co.uk

The Independent requested the Home Secretary's work browsing history for the last week of October under the Freedom of Information Act.

The Home Office has refused to make Theresa May's internet browsing history public under freedom of information rules, arguing that a request to do so is vexatious .

... Read the full article from independent.co.uk

 

 Offsite Article: Internet Snooping Providers...


Link Here 23rd December 2015  full story: Snooper's Charter...Tories re-start massive programme of communications snooping
ispa logo How the Investigatory Powers Bill will affect ISPs

See article from openrightsgroup.org

 

 Update: Endangering British People...

Apple asks if the risk of your bank account being cleared out by hackers is a price worth paying for the government being able to snoop on your personal messages


Link Here 22nd December 2015  full story: Snooper's Charter...Tories re-start massive programme of communications snooping
Apple logoApple has called for changes to the UK government's investigatory powers bill, over fears it would weaken the security of personal data of millions of law-abiding citizens .

In a submission to the bill committee the company expressed major concerns and called for wholesale changes before the bill is passed. It siad:

We believe it would be wrong to weaken security for hundreds of millions of law-abiding customers so that it will also be weaker for the very few who pose a threat. In this rapidly evolving cyber-threat environment, companies should remain free to implement strong encryption to protect customers

Apple highlighted the main areas of the bill that it wants to see changed. It told the committee that passages in the bill could give the government the power to demand Apple alters the way its messaging service, iMessage, works. The company said this would weaken encryption and enable the security services to eavesdrop on iMessage for the first time. In its submission, Apple said:

The creation of backdoors and intercept capabilities would weaken the protections built into Apple products and endanger all our customers. A key left under the doormat would not just be there for the good guys. The bad guys would find it too.

Apple said it was worried about the scope of the bill as many of the provisions in the bill apply to companies regardless of where they are based, giving the bill international scope, despite being a purely domestic piece of legislation. It also runs the risk of placing companies in a damned if they do, damned if they don't position. The company said:

Those businesses affected will have to cope with a set of overlapping foreign and domestic laws. When these laws inevitably conflict, the businesses will be left having to arbitrate between them, knowing that in doing so they might risk sanctions. That is an unreasonable position to be placed in.

 

 Offsite Article: I criticised the porn laws - and was targeted for censorship...


Link Here 18th December 2015  full story: ATVOD censors Pandora Blake...Dreams of Spanking websites falls foul of internet censor
dreams of spanking logo Pandora Blake eloquently describes the shameful British censorship of her award winning and ethical BDSM website

See article from pandorablake.com

 

 Offsite Article: Preston...


Link Here 18th December 2015  full story: Internet Snooping in the US...Prism and secret internet snooping
thames house The history of the establishment of UK communication snooping facilities

See article from theregister.co.uk

 

  Copying your own CDs...

The government abandons one of its few attempts to look after the British people ahead of big business


Link Here 17th December 2015

ipo logoFollowing the European Court of Justice decision in the Reprobel case, it is perhaps not surprising that the UK Intellectual Property Office has announced that it is to abandon the UK's private-copying exception which was introduced in October 2014, and which was effectively declared illegal by the High Court in July of this year, and so had to be withdrawn.

It now seems clear that the IPO were never going to find a workable scheme which met the criterion of fair compensation for rights holders demanded by the EU InfoSoc Directive, while at the same time avoiding unpopular levies on consumables and hardware capable of being used to copy, in particular, music, computer games, ebooks and films, for personal use.

The Reprobel decision, although not specifically concerned with copying for private use, highlights just how complicated the levy system can become. Each EU member state has found its own way of tackling the issue, with no overall EU-wide harmonisation in prospect. It seems that the IPO and those representing rights owners could not find an existing model to achieve fair compensation .

So where does this leave ordinary users in the UK? Clearly some will have been unaware of the introduction of the exception last year, and possibly a larger minority will have been unaware of the rescinding of the exception, so they will no doubt continue to format shift their personally owned music and store tracks on the cloud in blissful ignorance that that is not legal in most cases. Then there is the grey area of the legality of copies made while the exception was in force. Those users who are aware of the changes face a difficult decision: whether to make copies for personal use in contravention of the law in the reasonably sure knowledge that they won't get caught, or abide by the law and deny themselves a degree of sensible flexibility in their viewing and listening choices. One thing they will not do is go out and buy a digital replacement such as a download, for a CD or DVD they already own.

The decision not go ahead with the private copying exception will also have implications for other parts of the music distribution industry. Operators of cloud services may face pressure to amend their terms of service to reflect the new status quo, and some streaming services may be forced to tighten up their procedures to prevent users from creating multiple copies of the same download. But what also seems clear is that the music industry has won a Pyrrhic victory since whether or not it is illegal, many users will continue to make private copies of their legally owned music etc, just as they used to do in the pre-digital age.

 

 Offsite Article: Happy Birthday Porn Protest!...


Link Here 17th December 2015  full story: David Cameron's Internet Porn Ban...Attempting to ban everything on the internet
written by jenny logo Report from the Westminster porn protest, one year after the original 'facesitting' event

See article from writtenbyjenny.wordpress.com

 

  Doing a Runner...

Adult website closes to UK viewers in reaction to UK internet censorship rules


Link Here 13th December 2015

closedEvidence is emerging of self-censorship by web sites in reaction to the new censorship regime in the United Kingdom.

At least one web site operated and owned outside the UK has stopped accepting subscriptions from the UK and has asked a Melon Farmers contributor not to identify it in order to protect British models who appeared on the site. The site is entirely softcore, but the problem lies in content filmed out of doors in risky situations within the UK. (Some films actually show the model and photographer/videographer having to do a runner when passers-by appear.) The contributor noted the absurdity of not being able to access content shot ten minutes walk from his home.

The webmaster compares the censorship regime with that in Iran. Understandable perhaps when the regulations were introduced by the Toryban regime when Mullah Sajid Javid was minister for culture!

 

 Offsite Article: GCHQ could grab UK shopping data...


Link Here 12th December 2015  full story: Snooper's Charter...Tories re-start massive programme of communications snooping
home affairs committee Proposed snooper's charter will enable GCHQ to snoop on all available data

See article from bbc.co.uk

 

  The Wisdom of Youth...

Scottish government survey finds that young people are generally OK about porn


Link Here 3rd December 2015
No Fun: The Scottish Government logoA Scottish Government survey found that young adults are three times less likely to object to porn than their parents' generation and seven times less than their grandparents'.

In a poll of attitudes, only 6%of 18-29-year-olds said that watching porn was always wrong, compared with 25% among older age groups.

Vivienne Pattison, director of moralist campaign group Mediawatch-UK, said:

This very sad trend comes as no surprise because this is the first generation that has had access to porn at the click of a mouse, 24/7.

In previous eras, it was little more than pictures of naked ladies; whereas today's material is often violent and misogynistic.

The Scottish Government poll interviewed nearly 1,500 adults across all age groups, asking how wrong it was for an adult to watch pornography at home. In all, 21% said it was always wrong.  Among the over 65s, however, the figure was 44% and 18% for those aged 40 to 69. It was 17% for people in their 30s, but only 6% for the youngest age group.

Meanwhile, those on higher incomes and with better qualifications were more accepting of pornography.

 

 Petition: Hands Off FOI...

Don't weaken the Freedom of Information Act


Link Here 13th November 2015
hands off foi logo Petitioning Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General Matthew Hancock MP

The Freedom of Information Act established the broad principle that public bodies must release information if the public interest in doing so outweighs the public interest in it remaining secret.

We, the undersigned, urge the Government not to do anything which would detract from that principle.

In particular we urge you:

  • to ensure that the Act continues to allow for the release of internal discussions at local and central government level when there is a public interest in doing so
  • not to seek to create any new veto powers over the release of information
  • not to introduce charges for Freedom of Information Act requests or appeals.

Any charges could dramatically undermine the ability of requesters, including regional press journalists and freelances in particular, to use the Act to hold authorities to account.

Investigative journalism is time-consuming, expensive and sometimes difficult to justify for news organisations which are under financial pressure. It needs to be nurtured and encouraged, for the benefit of society and democracy, not subject to Freedom of Information charges which would be effectively be a tax on journalism.

This petition was launched by Press Gazette as part of the Society of Editors' Hands Off FoI campaign. It also has the backing of the Campaign for Freedom of Information.

Sign the petition from change.org

 

 Update: Cameron's Freedom Deficit...

As if it wasn't bad enough that all and sundry will be given the powers to snoop into our innermost private secrets, now it seems we will have to pay through the nose for the privilege


Link Here 12th November 2015  full story: Snooper's Charter...Tories re-start massive programme of communications snooping

ispa logoSpeaking at a Commons Select Committee hearing this week, ISPs warned that the costs of implementing the system outlined in the government's Snooper's Charter Bill would be huge, far larger than the 175m the government has earmarked for them.

ISPs would face significant additional costs, and would pass those on to its customers, the MPs were told. Chairman of the Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA), James Blessing, said that given an infinite budget he could create the system that the government imagines in its legislation. But, he noted, the bill appears to be limiting the amount of funds available to a figure we don't recognize as suitable for the industry.

Making the point more bluntly, CEO of ISP Gigaclear, Matthew Hare, noted: One way or the other, the citizens of this country will end up paying to be spied on.

 

 Updated: So strong encryption will be banned after all...

More propaganda from Theresa May and co shown to be bollox


Link Here 4th November 2015  full story: Snooper's Charter...Tories re-start massive programme of communications snooping

Theresa MayInternet and social media companies will be banned from putting customer communications beyond their own reach under new laws to be unveiled on Wednesday.

Companies such as Apple, Google and others will no longer be able to offer encryption so advanced that even they cannot decipher it when asked to, the Daily Telegraph can disclose.

Measures in the Investigatory Powers Bill will place in law a requirement on tech firms and service providers to be able to provide unencrypted communications to the police or spy agencies if requested through a warrant. A Home Office spokessnoop said:

The Government is clear we need to find a way to work with industry as technology develops to ensure that, with clear oversight and a robust legal framework, the police and intelligence agencies can access the content of communications of terrorists and criminals in order to resolve police investigations and prevent criminal acts.

That means ensuring that companies themselves can access the content of communications on their networks when presented with a warrant, as many of them already do for their own business purposes, for example to target advertising. These companies' reputations rest on their ability to protect their users' data.

Update: The impact of a ban on encryption

4th November 2015. See  article from publicaffairs.linx.net

Contrary to recent promises by Ministers that the government will not attempt to weaken or undermine encryption, the new obligation would require companies to ensure that they had the capability to decrypt any data they stored. This would particularly impact cloud-based companies like Apple and Facebook, which have won consumer trust for the integrity of their Facetime and WhatsApp communications services by designing them with encryption that protects customer data even from the company itself.

End-to-end encryption means, for communications, that the message is encrypted by the sender with a key known only to the intended recipient. Thus Alice can Facetime Bob safe in the knowledge that Apple cannot access the communication, even though Facetime communications need to be sent through servers run by Apple. End-to-end encryption also applies for data storage in the cloud: a business storing its corporate data in a cloud service like Amazon S3 or Google Glacier will encrypt that data with a key that it knows and Amazon or Google does not.

The ability to support end-to-end encryption has been a crucial factor enabling adoption of cloud-based services as a viable alternative to traditional applications run by corporate IT departments. Quite apart from any consumer backlash, prohibiting this capability would give pause to more security-sensitive businesses, that have a duty to protect the integrity of their customer data: if storing data in the cloud means exposing customer data to the cloud-service provider, use of cloud services becomes much riskier. Recent high-profile breaches at TalkTalk, Vodafone and credit-rating agency Experian have greatly raised sensitivity to risk.

 

 Petition: Don't Let it Bounce Back...

Open Rights Group petition against the Government's Snooper's Charter+


Link Here 2nd November 2015

snoopers charter bounce back logo The Government has announced it's going to introduce an Investigatory Powers Bill. It's the new Snoopers' Charter with even more powers for the police and GCHQ to spy on us. Sign our petition to say you want to stop it!

This is the fifth time a Government has tried to bring in the Snoopers' Charter. The Home Office wants to give the police and intelligence services even more powers to look at what we do and who we talk to.

Do we really want to live in a country where the police tries to access all of our texts and WhatsApp messages to our loved ones, the emails from our friends, the Facebook messages we've sent and the Snapchat photos our friends send us?

We'll have to wait and see for the precise details of the Home Office's plans but we might see them attacking the encryption technology that helps keep our messages and web browsing secure.

We think the police and intelligence services should target people suspected of crimes instead of collecting everyone's data, all of the time.

We're standing up against the Snooper's Charter. We've stopped it before and with your help, we can do that again.

It's not clear that the Home Office's collect-it-all approach is effective or giving us value for money. The perpetrators of atrocities like Lee Rigby's murder and the Charlie Hebdo attack were already on the radar of the British and French intelligence services. But they decided to stop monitoring them because of lack of resources.

The Home Office's answer to Edward Snowden's shocking disclosures should not be to give the police and the security services even more powers.

We'll be organising a lobby day soon so you can go to Parliament, get a briefing about this Bill and then talk to your MP so watch this space!

...Sign the petition

 

 Offsite Article: Don't be fooled by spook propaganda...


Link Here 1st November 2015  full story: Snooper's Charter...Tories re-start massive programme of communications snooping
Henry Porter The state still wants licence to pry. By Henry Porter

See article from theguardian.com

 

 Update: Snooper's Treasure Trove...

Police call for the ability to snoop on the browsing history of all British internet users


Link Here 31st October 2015  full story: Snooper's Charter...Tories re-start massive programme of communications snooping
national police chiefs council logoPolice have lobbied the government for the power to view the internet browsing history of every computer user in Britain ahead of the publication of legislation on regulating surveillance powers.

Senior officers want to revive the measures similar to those contained in the snooper's charter , which would force telecommunications companies to retain for 12 months data that would disclose websites visited by customers, reported the Times.

Richard Berry, the National Police Chiefs' Council spokesman for data communications refused to comment on any specifics of the forthcoming legislation, but claimedr the police were not looking for anything beyond what they could already access through telephone records. Detailing the powers police want, he said:

We essentially need the 'who, where, when and what' of any communication, who initiated it, where were they and when did it happened. And a little bit of the 'what', were they on Facebook, or a banking site, or an illegal child-abuse image-sharing website?

Update: ISPs warn about police snooping

31st October 2015. See  article from theguardian.com

ispa.jog logoISPs have warned that any new powers introduced by the government to allow broader snooping of web browsing behaviour must come with adequate oversight to protect civil liberties.

The Internet Service Providers' Association (ISPA) has sent a checklist of five key principles to MPs that it believes any new legislation must adhere to.

The ISPA said it had not yet been consulted over any extension of powers to cover internet browsing history. Andrew Kernahan, ISPA spokesman, said:

Once the bill is published we will be going through it with a fine-toothed comb. What we do know is that internet connection records that the government wanted was included in the draft communications data bill that was rejected by parliament. The independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, David Anderson, said there needed to be a rigorous assessment conducted of the lawfulness, likely effectiveness, intrusiveness and cost of requiring such data to be retained.

Kernahan said despite the bill's rejection, the government had not consulted with ISPs . We are still yet to have a proper conversation about this, he said.

 

 Update: Opting Out of Net Neutrality...

Cameron claims an EU opt out from European net neutrality rules banning opt out website blocking


Link Here 29th October 2015  full story: Internet Blocking Adult Websites in UK...Government push for ISPs to block porn
David CameronFor a short while there was hope that new European legislation on the subject of net neutrality may disallow opt out ISP website blocking. However David Cameron was quick to claim that he had some sort of opt out from this area of EU legislation and further more he would dream up some UK legislation that would allow such censorship schemes to continue operating.

During Prime Minister's Questions this week , the PM was asked whether the EU's new network neutrality regulations, just approved by the European Parliament, would prevent access providers from implementing adult content filters. The regulations forbid blocking or throttling of online content, applications and services .

The Prime Minister promised to legislate to make sure that filtering continued and told MPs:

Like my hon. Friend, I think that it is vital that we enable parents to have that protection for their children from this material on the internet. Probably like her, I spluttered over my cornflakes when I read the Daily Mail this morning, because we have worked so hard to put in place those filters. I can reassure her on this matter, because we secured an opt-out yesterday so that we can keep our family-friendly filters to protect children. I can tell the House that we will legislate to put our agreement with internet companies on this issue into the law of the land so that our children will be protected.

publicaffairs.linx.net  noted that it is not yet clear whether this would mean legislating to ensure that access providers are permitted to provide parental filters, or legislating to require them.

Comment: Open Rights Group

29th October 2015. See  press release from openrightsgroup.org

Open Rights Group logo 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 www.blocked.org.uk 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 .

 

 Update: Hackers will surely exploit back doors...

In the wake of seeing the TalkTalk consequences of not keeping people's data safe and encrypted, the government seems to partially backtrack on new legislation to restrict encryption


Link Here 29th October 2015

house of lords red logoThe recent TalkTalk hacking seems to have taught David Cameron a lesson on how important it is to keep data safe and encrypted.

The topic came yup this week in the House of Lords when Joanna Shields, minister for internet safety and security, confirmed that the government will not pass laws to ban encryption. and that the government has no intention of introducing legislation to weaken encryption or to require back doors.

The debate was brought by Liberal Democrat Paul Strasburger, who claimed Cameron does not seem to get the need for strong encryption standards online, with no back door access. Strasburger said:

[Cameron] three times said that he intends to ban any communication 'we cannot read', which can only mean weakening encryption. Will the Minister [Shields] bring the Prime Minister up to speed with the realities of the digital world?

Liberal Democrat peer Lord Clement-Jones asked if she could absolutely confirm that there is no intention in forthcoming legislation either to weaken encryption or provide back doors.

Shields denied Cameron intended to introduce laws to weaken encryption and said:

The Prime Minister did not advocate banning encryption; he expressed concern that many companies are building end-to-end encrypted applications and services and not retaining the keys.

She then seemingly contradicted herself by adding that companies that provide end-to-end encrypted applications, such as Whatsapp, which is apparently used by the terror group calling itself Islamic State, must be subject to decryption and that information handed over to law enforcement in extremis .

 

 Extract: The Great Firewall of Britain...

An extract from the government's Counter-Extremism Strategy reveals a propaganda 'network of credible commentators' to challenge internet extremism


Link Here 21st October 2015  full story: Extremism in the UK...UK government introduces wide ranging ban on extremism

David CameronContesting the online space

63. We are already working in partnership with industry and the police to remove terrorist and extremist material. Cooperation with industry has significantly improved in recent years. Removals at the request of the police have increased from around 60 items a month in 2010, when the unit responsible was first established, to over 4,000 a month in 2015, taking the total to 110,000 pieces of propaganda removed.

64. However, a fundamental shift in the scale and nature of our response is required to match the huge increase in extremists' use of the internet. This will involve close partnership with the public and industry to do two things: first we need to empower people to use the internet to challenge extremists online; and second we will work with social media and communications providers to ensure extremists do not have open access to their platforms.

65. To empower those who wish to challenge extremists online, we will continue to:

  • support a network of credible commentators who want to challenge the extremists and put forward mainstream views online;

  • train a wide range of civil society groups to help them build and maintain a compelling online presence, uploading mainstream content so that the extremist voice is not the only one heard;

  • run a national programme to make young people more resilient to the risks of radicalisation online and provide schools and teachers with more support to address the risk posed by online radicalisation; and

  • build awareness in civil society groups and the public to empower internet users to report extremist content.

66. And we will go further to limit access to extremist content online. In particular we will:

  • create a group that brings industry, government and the public together to agree ways to limit access to terrorist and extremist content online without compromising the principle of an open internet. We will learn from the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), which has been successful in tackling child sexual exploitation content online; and

  • continue to support greater use of filtering, working with industry to develop more effective approaches.

67. Communications service providers have a critical role in tackling extremist content online. We have seen the considerable progress they have made in tackling online Child Sexual Exploitation. We now look to them to step up their response to protect their users from online extremism. As the Prime Minister made clear in his July 2015 speech,... is now time for radicalisation . We need industry to strengthen their terms and conditions, to ensure fewer pieces of extremist material appear online, and that any such material is taken down quickly.

68. Using the internet -- both to confront extremist views and limit access to extremist content -- is crucial if we are to challenge extremist ideologies in our modern society. Alongside this is a need to promote the positive message that it is possible to reconcile your faith identity and national identity. By contesting the online space and presenting compelling alternatives to the extremist worldview, we will work in partnership with others to keep pace with the extremists' use of the internet.