Investigatory Powers Bill has mixed reception

The UK Government introduced the Investigatory Powers Bill to Parliament today. The Bill has had a mixed reception.

The Investigatory Powers Bill sets out the powers available to the police, security and intelligence services to gather and access communications and communications data in the digital age, subject to strict safeguards and world-leading oversight arrangements.

Theresa May is the Home Secretary for the United Kingdom.
AT HOME: Theresa May is the Home Secretary for the United Kingdom. Courtesy: Originally posted to Flickr by the Home Office.

Home Secretary Theresa May introduced the Bill. “This is vital legislation and we are determined to get it right,” she said. “Our proposals have been studied in detail by a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament established to provide rigorous scrutiny, and 2 further committees.
The revised Bill we introduced today reflects the majority of the committees’ recommendations – we have strengthened safeguards, enhanced privacy protections and bolstered oversight arrangements – and will now be examined by Parliament before passing into law by the end of 2016.
This timetable was agreed by Parliament when we introduced the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act in summer 2014.

Andy Burnham is the Shadow Home Secretary.
HOME ALONE: Andy Burnham is the Shadow Home Secretary. Courtesy: NHS Confederation

Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham was more critical. “Labour has taken a responsible and constructive approach to working with the Government on this important legislation and we will continue to do so,” he said. “However, it has major implications for privacy and how we are governed and policed.
We will therefore take time to get this legislation right and will not be rushed into reaching our judgement on it.

Home Secretary Theresa May disagreed. “[T]he Government has also published an operational case for bulk powers as set out by the security and intelligence agencies – giving unprecedented detail on why they need their existing powers and how they are used,” she said. “Terrorists and criminals are operating online and we need to ensure the police and security services can keep pace with the modern world and continue to protect the British public from the many serious threats we face.

Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham conceded the Bill was an improvement on the Draft Bill. “It is clear that the Government has made a number of changes to their original proposals,” he said. “We welcome that and the stronger safeguards they have incorporated into the Bill.

A spokesperson for the The Worker Revolutionary Party UK added: “May’s bill is nothing more than an attempt to put this illegal mass surveillance on a legal footing – to put into law the right of the state to monitor and hack into every phone, tablet and computer in the country. It will legalise the use of already existing facilities on these devices that enable them to be hacked and taken over.

The Investigatory Powers Bill is scheduled to pass into law before the end of 2016, addressing themes which were the focus of the Joint Committee, Intelligence and Security Committee and Science and Technology Committee reports.

Man convicted following use of Scan Net

A Barking man has been given a suspended prison sentence for an assault in Romford.

Gheorghe-Marian Ciovica, 30, of Eldred Road, Barking pleaded guilty to causing grievous bodily harm (GBH). He was sentenced at Basildon Crown Court on 6 July 2015, to two years’ imprisonment suspended, 200 hours’ community service and a four month curfew from Romford town centre

On 2 May 2015, CCTV captured the moment when a 32-year-old man was suddenly pushed to the ground as he walked along South Street, Romford in the early hours of the morning. Just after the victim got to his feet, he was struck by a single punch causing him to fall and bang his head on the ground rendering him unconscious.

When police arrived on scene, the victim was being attended to by a friend and other members of the public and Ciovica had made off on a train towards central London.

Officers obtained CCTV footage showing Ciovica leaving a town centre venue where Scan Net – an ID scanner system checking and registering patrons’ identification as they enter licensed premises – had recorded his personal details as he gained access earlier in the evening.

Officers placed an alert on Scan Net to notify police upon Ciovica’s return.

Ciovica was arrested at a town centre venue when he returned on Saturday, 9 May. He was remanded to appear at Barkingside Magistrates’ Court on Monday, 11 May, where he pleaded guilty to a charge of GBH.

DC Ian Spring is from Havering CID Violent Crime Unit. “The use of Scan Net and CCTV around Romford town centre played a big part in identifying and capturing Ciovica,” he said. “Romford has a great nightlife and we hope people can safely enjoy what it has to offer.

In 2013, researchers at the Centre for Research into Online Communities and E-Learning System in Swansea devised a technology for using CCTV to reduce crime, including through automatic processing. The research is entitled, “Reducing Corruption and Protecting Privacy in Emerging Economies: The Potential of Neuroeconomic Gamification and Western Media Regulation in Trust Building and Economic Growth” and was published in the IGI Global book, “Economic Behavior, Game Theory, and Technology in Emerging Markets,” by Bryan Christiansen and Muslum Basilgan.

Trolling expert speaks at student engagement conference

An Internet trolling expert has told a conference in Cardiff how the university it was held at could be an example of how to use existing policies to solve problems such as cyber-bullying through effective e-moderation.

Jonathan Bishop, who edited the book, Examining the Concepts, Issues and Implications of Internet Trolling, says that Cardiff Metropolitan University’s policies can be effectively implemented to prevent problems in online learning environments. “UWIC’s harassment and bullying policy seeks to resolve problems through informal processes and mediation prior to involving the police,” he said. “If this policy was followed in online learning environments then it would prevent the build up of problems that would result from going at a problem like a bull at a gate.”

Jonathan Bishop also explored other Cardiff Metropolitan University policies, such as those relating to IT and communications, student disciplinary procedures, student fitness to practice policies, among others. His overall message was that existing polices should be enough for challenges brought about by online environments. “Problems that occur offline are often the same ones that occur online, ” he said. “It is not necessary to have specific online policies as all that should be needed is for it to be made clear existing policies apply as much online as offline.”

Jonathan Bishop was speaking at the enhancing student engagement conference at Cardiff Metropolitan University on 20 April 2015.

Youth Rights ‘should be at heart’ of digital bill

DIGITAL EQUALITY: Internet trolling expert, Dzon, thinks youth rights should be at the heart of the proposed Digital Rights Bill. Courtesy: Steve Powerhill Photography.
DIGITAL EQUALITY: Internet trolling expert, Dzon, thinks youth rights should be at the heart of the proposed Digital Rights Bill. Courtesy: Steve Powerhill Photography.

An Internet trolling expert and general election candidate has thrown his weight behind the Lib Dems’ plans for a Digital Rights Bill, but says youth rights should be a core feature.

The Pluralist Party candidate for Liverpool Walton, Dzon, known professionally as Jonathan Bishop, says he fully supports Liberal Democrat proposals for a Digital Rights Bill. “Whilst as a trolling expert I know that current laws are good enough to protect rights to free speech and from Internet abuse, a new law to set out case law and CPS best practice in black and white will stop the misuse and lack of use of current legislation,” he said. “It is essential that at the heart of this bill that youth rights are protected, as all too often it is young people that are prosecuted and convicted for trolling, even though if case law like DPP v Chambers were applied they would be found innocent.
A new Digital Rights Bill should insert into existing trolling law like the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 and Malicious Communications Act 1988 prescribed defences against prosecution based on what is set out in DPP v Chambers, DPP v Collins, DPP v Connolly and the DPP’s guidance on offences arising out of social media, so that only those incidents of trolling that are illegal are prosecute whereas those that are free speech are not.

Nick Clegg is leader of the Liberal Democrats who has proposed the Digital Rights Bill. “The way in which we work, socialise, buy products and use services has changed at lightning speed since the digital revolution,” he said. “However government and politicians have responded at snail’s pace, and failed to ensure the rights of consumers, businesses, journalists and children are protected in the online world.
Our Digital Rights Bill will finally enshrine into law our rights as citizens of this country to privacy, to stop information about us being abused online, and to protect our right to freedom of speech.

Lib Dem proposals include a Code of Practice for online services who would by law have to correct information about members of the public where it is inaccurate or defamatory and enshrine in law the responsibility of government to defend the free press, including the rights of journalists and citizen journalists to express their views freely online.

Pop up shop offers advice on staying safe online

As the Christmas rush gets underway, police and partner agencies are opening a pop-up shop in Belfast city centre to provide practical advice to anyone who is worried about staying safe online. The shop will be located at the City Business Hub in Castle Lane on Friday 28 and Saturday 29 November between 10am and 4pm.

The shop will be staffed by a variety of experts from the banking, computer security and consumer sectors. Members of the public will be able to pop in and get advice about:

  • Avoiding scams and fraud
  • Shopping, buying, banking and payments
  • Social networking and dating
  • Safeguarding privacy and identity
  • Booking tickets and holidays
  • Protecting your family
  • Using mobile devices
  • Viruses and spyware
  • Wi-fi and hotspots
  • Protecting your business.

Douglas Grant is the Detective Chief Inspector from Organised Crime Branch. “Between 1 October 2013 and 30 September 2014 police have recorded 757 offences committed in full or in part through a computer, computer network or other computer-enabled device,” he said. “The two largest offences were harassment (316) and fraud (200). There were 48 involving obscene publications and 40 offences of a sexual nature, 59 threats to kill and 11 reports of blackmail.
“A breakdown of the victim profile shows 129 were aged under 19, 195 aged between 20-29, 131 between 30-39, 86 between 40-49, 48 between 50-59, 20 between 60-69 and 11 over 70 years.
“To date, 81 of these offences have been detected and dealt with either by way of charge, summons, caution or discretionary disposal.
“One crime is one too many. I would encourage anyone with concerns to come in to the shop and talk to us. If anyone wants to bring in their laptop or mobile device, we’ll have a look at it for them if they have security concerns.”

Data Retention Needed – May

Theresa May is the Home Secretary for the United Kingdom.
AT HOME: Theresa May is the Home Secretary for the United Kingdom. Courtesy: Originally posted to Flickr by the Home Office.

Home Secretary Theresa May has defended government snooping on data communications between the UK and other countries. May, who was speaking to a parliamentary inquiry, said that the UK government is doing nothing that is not being done by mega corporations like Google. “If you are searching for the needle in the haystack, you have to have a haystack in the first place,” she said. “I think there is – not a contract entered into – but an unwritten agreement between the individual and the state that the state is going to do everything they can to keep them safe and secure.

Internet trolling expert, Jonathan Bishop, says that data retention is important, but technology needs to advance to protect civil liberties. “It is not unreasonable for the government to seek to find the ‘needles in a haystack’ referred to by the Home Secretary,” he said. “But there needs to be technology developed that will ensure only the data of suspects is accessed and not those who abide by the law.
The concept of a national DNA database is not undesirable, for instance, but database technology needs to advance so that instead of treating everyone as a suspect by searching through database entries, only the record for the suspect concerned is accessed.

UK Government cybersecurity criticised

The UK Government has been criticised over its handling of the out-break of a serious computer ‘virus.’

The website designated to help the public deal with the threat could not cope with the demand, leading some experts to question whether the government is prepared for future instances of cyber-terrorism.

Security expert Graham Cluley said the incident should have been handled differently. “Get Safe Online massively dropped the ball,” he said. “If the government is going to rely upon Get Safe Online to distribute internet security advice, the site needs to invest in the infrastructure required to remain accessible at all times, every day of the year, because you never know when the next big security issue will crop up – and when the public will need advice urgently.

Get Safe Online is UK Government funded with support from the private sector, including PayPal, Barclays and Microsoft. “The site is backed by the government and industry players,” Cluley said. “The resources should be available to keep the site running even in times of high activity.
I hope they’ve learnt their lesson, and that it won’t happen again.”

NCA policy ‘in line with law’

A cybercrime expert has suggested that the policy of the new National Crime Agency that it will not publicise all arrests it makes is the right one.

Jonathan Bishop, who has conducted research into the role of the NCA as a force for good says the news should be welcomed. “No every arrest is in the public interest to make public, especially where the Contempt of Court Act 1981 could be seen to apply,” he said. “The Freedom of Information Act 2000 provides for the media and others to request specifics, which should be enough to ensure the course of justice runs smoothly.”

The National Crime Agency was set up among other reasons to deal with cybercrime in a coordinated way. A spokesperson for the NCA said that they “arrested over 350 people in its first four months of operation.”
“We consider publishing the details of arrests in every instance, and on a case by case basis, but it is not appropriate or practical to publicise every single one,”
they continued.Decisions involve multiple considerations, for example balancing transparency with the need to preserve operational integrity or protect vulnerable people.
“We also need to consider the right to a fair trial and the risk of jeopardising a prosecution in the event that charges are brought. An individual who has not been charged, and may still be released without charge, should reasonably expect to have their details made public only when law enforcement has the evidence to bring charges against them.
“Where confirmation of an arrest would, by default, effectively confirm an individual’s identity the same considerations apply. 
As an investigation progresses we keep this under review.
We do have discretion to name on arrest but there must be a sound justification to do so, for example it is not uncommon for individuals to be named where there is a threat to life.

Tributes to ‘greatest special education reformer’

The news of the death of Baroness Margaret Thatcher, the first and only woman Prime Minister in British history, has left the nation as divided as when she was in power. But to some in education and technology her mark on British society will always be remembered positively.

Margaret Thatcher’s impact on technology legislation, particularly in relation to telecommunications was ahead of her time. The British Telecommunications Act 1981 that privatised Britain’s national telephone network has led Britain to become one of the most competitive marketplaces in the world, making even Germany look out-of-touch.

REFORMER: Margaret Thatcher was the greatest special education reformer says trolling expert Jonathan Bishop.
REFORMER: Margaret Thatcher was the greatest special education reformer says trolling expert Jonathan Bishop.

Margaret Thatcher was the first Prime Minister in the UK to introduce legislation to tackle communications offences in print and electronic form. Namely the Telecommunications Act 1984 and the Malicious Communications Act 1988. Jonathan Bishop is an Internet trolling expert. “The legislation introduced by Margaret Thatcher is still being used to tackle trolling today,” he said. “The Communications Act 2003 copies her 1984 Telecommunications Act almost word for word, and her amended Malicious Communications Act has been used to prosecute some of the most abusive of Internet trollers.

Carrie Green of Teltek Systems, Inc., a woman-owned telecommunications and technology solutions integrator, also spoke highly of Lady Thatcher’s role in technology. “Her first job was in the science and technology field,” she said. “Although some of her actions and policies were controversial, her legacy is inspirational and she will be remembered as a powerful leader and role model.

In terms of education Margaret Thatcher has made a big impact on the British legal framework. The Education Act of 1981 introduced the requirement for local authorities to provide statements of extra provisions needed for children special educational needs. The legislation was opposed by many left-wing politicians who saw it as offering special treatment. But as Jonathan Bishop says, it was fundamental to his and others success. “My parents had to fight the Labour-run local authority tooth and nail for me to have an education tailored to my needs as Margaret Thatcher gave me and others as a right,” he said. “Margaret Thatcher will be remembered as by me as the greatest special education reformer in history, and anyone with SENs who have not had my successes should point their finger away from her.

Ray Nothstine is Associate Editor at the Acton Institute, and Managing Editor of Religion & Liberty. “Margaret Thatcher provided the West with many morally courageous moments,” he said. “The moniker, ‘The Iron Lady’ was bestowed upon her by the Soviet Army newspaper Red Star in 1976 because of her piercing denouncement of communism.
Thatcher, of course, adored the unofficial title.

South Wales Police ‘breached’ information security rules 28 times

Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that South Wales Police had 28 information security breaches by its staff between 2011 and 2012.

Officers have been nicked for accessing police records to snoop on family, friends and others. Cops were nabbed for carrying out searches on partners, relatives and friends, as well as updating and distributing records in relation to third parties and themselves.

So far in Wales a total of four officers have been dismissed and 14 resigned for the information security breaches. A spokesman for the Information Commissioner’s Office, which is the government agency responsible for safeguarding information security was critical. “It is important officers do not abuse this access and only use information for their policing duties,” they said. “Public officials who abuse their positions can face serious consequences, including criminal prosecution under the (Data Protection) Act.

Jonathan Bishop is an expert on information security policy at the Centre for Research into Online Communities and E-Learning Systems within Swansea University. “Our research has found that snooping on members of the public by South Wales Police is common,” he said. “We are currently preparing learning resources for our Trolling Academy project explaining to people how to check if South Wales Police are accessing their website, as we have found computers whose addresses end in ovh.net can be traced back to the force’s computers using a website’s server log.