UN austerity and human rights report highlights Big Data risks in the UK

By Carmel Williams

Big Data and artificial intelligence are, perhaps surprisingly, a featured highlight in the UN expert’s report on extreme poverty in the UK. Technology is frequently proffered as a solution to poverty and other social rights failings (see for example the recent Astana Declaration on Primary Health Care). However, Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, focuses instead on its potential to erode democracy.

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Big Brother Watch and Others v. the United Kingdom – Some initial thoughts

By Daragh Murray & Vivian Ng

On Thursday, 13 September 2018, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) handed down their decision in Big Brother Watch and Others v. the United Kingdom. This decision addressed the legality of the United Kingdom’s (UK) bulk interception programme, intelligence sharing, and the obtaining of communications data from communications service providers and was prompted by the 2013 Snowden revelations.

This is a complex decision which is likely to have significant ramifications for mass surveillance programmes. As such, it is too early to offer detailed analysis, and this post intends to highlight some of the interesting elements that we will be thinking over in the coming weeks and months. Our focus here is on the bulk interception programme.

For an excellent initial post on the implications for the UK’s Investigatory Power’s Act, please see ‘Big Brother Watch v UK – implications for the Investigatory Powers Act?’ at Cyberleagle. Continue reading

Quick Comment on UK Draft Data Retention and Acquisition Regulations 2018 and the definition of ‘serious crime’ for bulk surveillance powers

By Daragh Murray and Pete Fussey

The UK Government has published the Draft Data Retention and Acquisition Regulations 2018, which propose changes to the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 (IPA) and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA). Both the IPA and RIPA provide a legal basis for Government surveillance, including bulk surveillance techniques.

The changes included in the draft were brought about, in large part, as a result of adverse findings by the Court of Justice of the European Union in the Watson case, which held that the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights:

…must be interpreted as precluding national legislation governing the protection and security of traffic and location data and, in particular, access of the competent national authorities to the retained data, where the objective pursued by that access, in the context of fighting crime, is not restricted solely to fighting serious crime, where access is not subject to prior review by a court or an independent administrative authority, and where there is no requirement that the data concerned should be retained within the European Union. (para 125)

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Police are using big data to profile young people, putting them at risk of discrimination

By Daragh Murray and Pete Fussey

This blog originally appeared on The Conversation

Amnesty International has raised a series of human rights issues in connection with the “gang matrix” developed and run by London’s Metropolitan Police, in a recent report. According to the report, appearing on the database could affect the lives of 3,806 people, 80% of whom are between 12 and 24 years old.

There are no specific details about how the matrix operates and is used by police. It exists, at least in part, to address the difficulties in policing gang activities across different districts. But it’s suspected that – because of government data sharing – appearing on the database will “follow” young people around, affecting their access to housing, education or work.

The Met said in a statement, “The overarching aim of the matrix is to reduce gang-related violence and prevent young lives being lost”, but added that it was working with Tottenham MP David Lammy, Amnesty International and the Information Commissioner’s Office to “help understand the approach taken”.

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The European Court of Human Rights exercises due deference to Great Britain: Ireland v United Kingdom redux (2018)

The Long Read Series

By Aoife Duffy

Just over 40 years after its famous Ireland v United Kingdom judgment, the European Court of Human Rights ruled on the Irish government’s request to review its 1978 finding that the United Kingdom had committed an Article 3 violation of the European Convention on Human Rights. Article 3 states that “[n]o one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” The historical context of the original ruling was violent conflict in Northern Ireland; the contemporary context of the revision judgment is intense debate about European institutions and standards following the Brexit referendum. Whereas the European Commission found that the United Kingdom’s combined use of five techniques – hooding, wall standing, exposure to white noise, reduced diet and sleep deprivation – amounted to torture, the European Court categorised the system of interrogation not as torture, but inhuman and degrading treatment. In 2014, the Irish government submitted a revision request under the Rules of the Court on the basis of fresh evidence – a dossier of declassified files released under the 30 year rule that seemed to corroborate the Commission’s finding of torture. In short, the Irish government argued that had these facts been known at the time, the European Court would not have diverged from the Commission’s finding of torture. This post will demonstrate that the revision judgment was settled along weak procedural lines, which can easily be picked apart by reference to the declassified files that triggered the revision request. In addition, it will question the utility of situating history making in this type of legal forum.

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Members of HRBDT Project Submit Evidence on Proposed Amendments to Investigatory Powers Act

 

On 30 November 2017 the Home Office issued an open consultation regarding proposed amendments to the UK Investigatory Powers Act 2016. These amendments were proposed in response to an adverse judgment by the Court of Justice of the European Union in Joined Cases C-203/15 and C-698/15.

The full scope of the proposed amendments are discussed in the Government’s Consultation Document.

Dr. Daragh Murray, Prof. Pete Fussey, and Prof. Maurice Sunkin QC, members of the Human Rights Big Data & Technology Project, based at the University of Essex Human Rights Centre, submitted written evidence. Their submission focused on the Government’s proposal to amend the statutory purposes for which communications data may be retained or acquired. It argues that the Government’s proposals are overly broad, add uncertainty to the law, and have not been adequately justified. Continue reading