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.
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.
We welcome Jeremy Corbyn's public statement
in support of the decriminalisation of sex work. He, more than many, will have in mind the austerity cuts, 75% of which have targeted women. These cuts are responsible for massive increase in prostitution that we have seen in the UK as of late.
With 3.7 million children living in poverty in the UK and 176,000 people surviving on food banks, no wonder that women are turning to prostitution. The northern English town of Doncaster
reported a 60% increase in prostitution
in 2013, with charities saying, "women are being forced to sell sex for £5 because of benefit sanctions". Sheffield
reported a 166% increase in 2014 while charity workers in Hull
have gone on record saying "we have started to see women who are literally starving and they are out there to feed themselves".
As poverty and prostitution increase so does criminalisation. We are currently fighting legal cases with women imprisoned for brothel-keeping because they worked in a flat with friends -- obviously much safer than working alone. We are also working with
women street workers, who are having their IDs confiscated by police before being told that they can only get them back if they show plane tickets back to Romania. This is happening despite these women having the right to reside in the UK. We are even
helping a woman fired from her public service job because she worked part-time in pornography to supplement her wages.
We see daily the injustice of the prostitution laws which force sex workers to work in isolation and danger. As a woman working in Leeds said recently, "the laws are pointing at us and saying, 'nobody cares about you'". That is the view of
every killer who has targeted sex workers.
But perhaps the most compelling reason to abolish the laws is because illegality and stigma hides who sex workers are -- mothers, sisters, daughters, aunties and wives --all women (and men and trans people) trying to survive in increasingly harsh
economic times. Those feminist politicians who claim to speak for us but who misinterpret, lie, distort and disparage our experience take advantage of our illegal status knowing that it is harder for us to speak publicly to set the record straight.
Approximately 85% of sex workers are women and the majority are mothers, mostly single mums. If prostitution policy and law was framed by these facts we'd get support for mothers and anti-austerity policies not more criminalisation. So thank goodness for
Corbyn and his close political ally John McDonnell MP, whose principled support for decriminalisation has meant that groups such as the Safety First Coalition (which includes the Royal College of Nursing), Hampshire Women's Institute, and Women Against
Rape have had a voice in parliament.
The evidence of the success of decriminalisation is compelling. At our evidence gathering symposium on prostitution last November, Catherine Healy, founding member and coordinator of the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective, reported on research from the
Prostitution Law Review Committee
that found, five years after the decriminalisation in New Zealand, that there had been no increase in prostitution or trafficking. In contrast, sex workers are now more able to leave prostitution and secure other work because they aren't registered and
convictions have been cleared from their record. The law decriminalised sex workers on the street and in premises, which has made it easier to report violence and has allowed sex workers to work together, increasing safety.
An independent review
by the Christchurch School of Medicine in New Zealand found 64% of sex workers found it easier to refuse clients -- a litmus test of whether women are being forced or coerced.
Yet the Home Affairs Committee is studiously ignoring this compelling evidence. Instead it appears to have a pre-determined outcome to recommend the criminalisation of clients -- a proposal backed by an "
unlikely union of evangelical Christians with feminist campaigners
". As one of the women who gave evidence to the inquiry said, "politicians who claim to want to save us by banning our work should first of all say how else we are to survive".
Corbyn and John McDonnell's support for decriminalisation puts sex workers of a par with others who have been unjustly criminalised -- young people, people of colour, immigrant people. And that is right. Women picked up for soliciting have long said that
the prostitution laws are to women what the sus laws are to young Black men -- a tool for the police to persecute and harass, with Black and other women of colour as their first targets.
Corbyn and McDonnell take their lead from sex workers who, like other workers, are striving to improve our working conditions. If the Labour party wants an anti-prostitution strategy they should get behind their leader's determined campaign against
benefit cuts, sanctions and an end to zero hour contracts ."
Jeremy Corbyn supports the legalisation of sex work and says that he does not want to automatically criminalise people. Labour PC extremists soon respond saying that they DO want to criminalise everybody, or at least men
Jeremy Corbyn told students in London he wanted a society where we don't automatically criminalise people , The Guardian reported. He said:
I am in favour of decriminalising the sex industry. I don't want people to be criminalised. I want to be [in] a society where we don't automatically criminalise people.
Let's do things a bit differently and in a bit more civilised way.
Of course it did not take long for the nasty wing of the Labour party to crticise their leader and re-iterate that they would like to see men jailed just for wanting to get laid.
Ex-Labour deputy leader Harriet Hatemen claimed prostitution was exploitation and abuse not an industry .
Labour MP Jess Phillips spewed on Twitter:
Man says we should decriminalize a known violence against women. Why did it have to be this man,
But the English Collective of Prostitutes, which campaigns for decriminalisation, voiced its support for Corbyn's comments. Supporters of decriminalisation include Amnesty International, which says it would mean sex workers are no longer forced to
live outside the law .
Comment: Right Whinger
6th March 2016. Thanks to Alan
Corbyn's de facto number two, the shadow chancellor John McDonnell, also has a laudable track record of fighting the corner of sex workers.
The nonentity Jess Phillips is a right-whinger with form for trying to undermine Corbyn. As for the bollox spouted by Harridan Hatemen, it mat be worth noting that the International Union of Sex Workers affiliated to the GMB, a TUC-affiliated union,
which certainly seems to make them workers. Since HH's old man, Jack Dromey, is a former union official, I'd love to be a fly on the wall of the Dromey-Hatemen kitchen at breakfast!
I never cease to be amazed by the capacity of purported feminists like Hatemen and Phillips to spew crap about prostitution without ever talking to a few tarts.
Update: Corbyn is right -- prostitution must be decriminalised
Chris Grayling, the Leader of the House of Commons, has refused a request from Rupa Huq, a Labour MP who is the sister-in-law of comedian Charlie Brooker, to consider relaxing censorship rules on how parliamentary TV footage can be used.
The rule, agreed by broadcasters in 1989 as part of a deal to admit television cameras into the Commons, states that footage cannot be used in any light entertainment programme or in a programme of political satire .
However, parliamentary scenes can be included in 'magazine' programmes which also contain music or humorous features, such as This Week, the late-night political show hosted by Andrew Neil, provided that the different types of item are kept
Brooker said that the rules were ridiculous and inconsistent and that the ridiculous ban meant that the government was officially scared of clowns . Other satirists were equally scathing. Rory Bremner said that the advent of the internet
meant that the ship has already sailed , while fellow Spitting Image star John Sessions said the obsolete rules represented the last gasp of deference .
Julian Huppert is a Lecturer at the University of Cambridge. He was previously the Member of Parliament for Cambridge as a Liberal Democrat, serving as a member of the Home Affairs Select Committee.
Three parliamentary committees have now reported on the Home Secretary's draft Investigatory Powers Bill. All three have
raised major criticisms of both the powers proposed and the way they are set out.
The first was the report of the Science and Technology Committee
, on February 9th, which criticised the lack of clarity in the bill, and highlighted the need for integrity and security in online transactions.
Then we had the Intelligence and Security Committee, with the first report
from the new committee. Long derided as weak, too close to and too trusting of the agencies it was supposed to be overseeing, it caused ripples in the establishment with its short and to the point 15-page report.
In that report they savaged the bill, describing it as a "missed opportunity". They say that "the privacy protections are inconsistent and in our view need strengthening", and that some of the provisions -- equipment interference,
bulk personal data sets, and communications data -- "are too broad and lack sufficient clarity". The proposals around communications data are described as "inconsistent and largely incomprehensible".
Their criticisms are so deep that they express specific concern that it may not be possible to fix the bill by the end of 2016, and suggest the Home Office make sure to take the time to get it right. They say "the draft Bill has perhaps suffered
from a lack of sufficient time and preparation and it is important that this lesson is learned prior to introduction of the new legislation." Given that aspects of this legislation were claimed to be ready to be passed into law in 2012, this is
The largest report was that of the Joint Committee set up specifically to examine this bill, released this morning, February 11th. Whereas the one set up to consider the 2012 draft Communications Data Bill, on which I served, was chaired by the
independently minded Lord Blencathra, this one was chaired by a former chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee (from its rather more cosy and quiescent days), Lord Murphy. They also had a very abridged timetable, and say on numerous occasions
that they simply didn't have the time to properly analyse important sections of the legislation.
Despite this, the 182-page report contains some heavy criticism of the bill, in many cases calling on the government to address criticisms or change the legislation, and they specifically call for some powers to be removed from the bill. In a
rather derisory remark, they say of the Home Office that:
We recommend that more effort should be made to reflect not only the policy aims but also the practical realities of how the internet works on a technical level.
This is the Home Office's third effort to get legislation in this area correct. The first effort was slated by a Joint Committee, and the replacement that was then drawn up was not deemed to be good enough even to present to parliament. This third
version has now faced a triple whammy of criticism, and it is now clear that the Home Office will have to make substantial changes if it wants to get legislation through.
I hope the Home Office will listen to the criticism, especially from the ISC, and produce a better bill for parliament. If they do, we can be in a better place than the one we have now, where RIPA and other obscure legislation gives widespread uncodified
powers in ways that were never intended. If not, I foresee a rocky road for them in parliament, and many embarrassing defeats.
If the Home Office get this right, we can benefit from both better security and better protection for privacy. If they refuse to listen, they have the power to worsen both.
The BBC's governing body, the BBC Trust, has lost confidence and credibility and should be abolished , according to a
British parliamentary committee report on the BBC Charter review.
The Culture, Media and Sport Committee report claims that while the BBC is an extraordinary national and global institution , it needs a radical overhaul of its governance arrangements .
On the subject of BBC censorship, the report called for a new complaints procedure that would see all complaints handled initially by the BBC itself, with both industry and editorial issues then escalated to UK TV censor Ofcom.
The chair of the committee, Jesse Norman, said:
Based on more than six months of evidence and testimony, we believe the [BBC's] current structure, including the BBC Trust, needs to be abolished. In or judgment the key functions can and should be absorbed within Ofcom, the industry regulator, with
The House of Commons Science and Tech Committee has published its report on the draft Investigatory Powers
Bill, influenced by comments submitted by 50 individuals, companies, and organizations, including EFF. The report is the first of three investigations by different Parliamentary committees. While it was intended to concentrate on the technological and
business ramifications of the bill, their conclusions reflect the key concern of lawmakers, companies, and human rights groups about the bill's dangerously vague wording.
The Investigatory Powers Bill, as written, is so vague as to permit a vast range of surveillance actions, with profoundly insufficient oversight or insight into what Britain's intelligence, military and police intend to do with their powers. It is, in
effect, a carefully-crafted loophole wide enough to drive all of existing mass surveillance practice through. Or, in the words of Richard Clayton, Director of the Cambridge Cloud Cybercrime Centre at the University of Cambridge, in his submissions to the
committee: the present bill forbids almost nothing ... and hides radical new capabilities behind pages of obscuring detail.
The bill is 192 pages long, excluding over 60 pages of explanatory notes. Our comments to the committee focused on just one aspect of the bill, what they call equipment interference. Despite our emphasis on just one small part of the bill, our
analysis revealed multiple ambiguities and broad new powers that would allow the security and intelligence agencies, law enforcement and the armed forces, to target electronic equipment such as computers and smartphones in order to obtain data, including
communications content. The bill also provides for the UK government to compel companies and individuals to comply with its surveillance demands, including those located outside Britain, and to bar companies from revealing that they were the subject of
such demands. As the committee says in its conclusions, We believe the industry case regarding public fear about 'equipment interference' is well founded.
The bill also includes a new mandate for data retention whose breadth is similarly ambiguous. Terms like internet connection records, telecommunications service, relevant communications data, communications content, technical feasibility,
and reasonable practicable were all criticized in the report for their vague and overbroad use. The government's excuse is that it wants to create a future-proof bill, but loose language is bad for businesses trying to understand what
obligations they are under. And it's certainly bad for civil liberties when governments exploit those ambiguities to obtain or hold onto new powers.
The details of these definitions and safeguards surrounding them should not be punted into secondary legislation. As the committee notes, a disturbing degree of detail about the Investigatory Powers Bill is deferred to future Codes of Practice. We've been down this road before in the UK. IPB's predecessor, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (2000) also placed its devilish details into future statutory instruments, which were often slipped past Parliamentarians with little warning or debate. The result was years of expansion of RIPA powers, to the point where powers originally intended for the intelligence services were delegated to over four hundred public bodies. Even the head of MI5 , Lady Manningham-Buller, who lobbied for the RIPA powers, was shocked by the eventual overreach:
I can remember being astonished to read that organizations such as the Milk Marketing Board, and whatever the equivalent is for eggs, would have access to some of the techniques. On the principle governing the use of intrusive techniques which invade
people's privacy, there should be clarity in the law as to what is permitted and they should be used only in cases where the threat justified them and their use was proportionate.
This is why, as the committee says, it is essential that this timetable does not slip and that the Codes of Practice are indeed published alongside the Bill so they can be fully scrutinized and debated.
We would go further: EFF believes that a productive discussion around the Investigatory Powers Bill can only begin once all the cards are on the table. The UK government needs to answer all the questions raised by the committee, including those currently
postponed to Codes of Practice, and embed those answers in a revised bill, which can then be more seriously considered, or it's destined for a future of abuse followed by dismantlement in the courts.
The series of successful challenges in the UK and EU against previous surveillance law and practice shows that vague and unbounded language cannot survive a serious challenge in the courts. If the UK government wants its surveillance rules to stand the
test of time, it needs to build them on a firm foundation of clarity, necessity, and proportionality.
UK Home Affairs Committee sets up a biased inquiry clearly with the intention of jailing men for seeking the simple pleasures of life from sex workers, just so that mean minded feminists can feel good about their 'equality'
The Home Affairs Committee is launching an inquiry into the way prostitution is treated in legislation. In
particular, the inquiry will assess whether the balance in the burden of criminality should shift to those who pay for sex rather than those who sell it. Saying that, the only discussion points on the agenda are in support of the premise.
Inquiry: Prostitution Home Affairs Committee
Terms of Reference
Written evidence is invited on the following issues:
Whether criminal sanction in relation to prostitution should continue to fall more heavily on those who sell sex, rather than those who buy it.
What the implications are for prostitution-related offences of the Crown Prosecution Service's recognition of prostitution as violence against women.
What impact the Modern Slavery Act 2015 has had to date on trafficking for purposes of prostitution, what further action is planned, and how effectively the impact is being measured.
Whether further measures are necessary, including legal reforms, to:
- Assist those involved in prostitution to exit from it
- Increase the extent to which exploiters are held to account
- Discourage demand which drives commercial sexual exploitation
Written submissions for this inquiry should be submitted online by midday on Thursday 18 February 2016.