Tag Archives: information law and policy centre

Reflections on ‘Freedom of Information’ at 250

Freedom of Information Act Sweden and Finland 1766

In December 2016, the Information Law and Policy Centre co-organised an event celebrating the 250th anniversary of the world’s first law providing a right to information. It was hosted by free expression NGO, Article 19 at the Free Word Centre and supported by the Embassies of Sweden and Finland. A full programme of the event and the audio files are available on the Campaign for Freedom of Information website. In this post, Judith Townend and Daniel Bennett reflect on a few of the key themes discussed at the event. 

Accessing information may no longer feel like a pressing problem. We live in an age of global telecommunications, the internet and the smartphone with access to ubiquitous 24/7 media coverage on demand. Our data is collected, tracked, mapped and analysed by social media networks, search engines, commercial enterprises, governments and public authorities around the world. And yet, 250 years after the first law providing for a right to information was passed, the right for us – the public – to access information relating to the administration of state power remains a struggle.

Our ‘Freedom of Information at 250’ event sought to put this struggle into its historical context. The event celebrated and commemorated the signing into law of ‘His Majesty’s Gracious Ordinance Relating to Freedom of Writing and of the Press’ on 2nd December 1766.¹ Enacted by the Riksdag (parliament) of Sweden – which then also included Finland – this was the world’s first law to promise public access to governmental information. Continue reading

Information Law and Policy Centre appoints new director

n__ni_loideain new director of the Information Law and Policy CentreDr Nora Ni Loideain, a scholar in governance, human rights and technology, has been appointed director of the Information Law and Policy Centre (ILPC) at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (IALS), one of nine research institutes of the School of Advanced Study, University of London.

Currently a postdoctoral research associate for the technology and democracy project at the University of Cambridge’s Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), Dr Ni Loideain takes up her new role at IALS in May.

The Information Law and Policy Centre opened in 2015. Its mission is to extend the institute’s research into how law both restricts and enables the sharing and dissemination of different types of information and provide a physical and virtual meeting place for those active in the area.

Issues the Centre will look at include data access and ownership rights, privacy and confidentiality, the malicious use and misuse of data, freedom of information and legal publishing (both commercial and free-to-internet). It is also interested in trends in scholarly communication relating to legal studies.

Dr Ni Loideain was awarded her PhD in law from the University of Cambridge. Her doctoral research examined the impact of the ‘right to privacy’ on the EU Data Retention Directive which mandated the mass retention of EU citizens’ communications metadata for national security and law enforcement purposes.

Previously she clerked for the Irish Supreme Court and was a legal and policy officer for the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions of Ireland. Her research interests and publications focus on governance, human rights and technology, particularly in the fields of digital privacy, data protection and state surveillance.

She is also an affiliated lecturer at the Cambridge Faculty of Law, a visiting lecturer for the LL.M. Privacy and Information Law module at King’s College London and a senior research fellow at the University of Johannesburg’s Faculty of Humanities.

‘The institute welcomes Dr Ni Loideain to contribute to this dynamic area of interdisciplinary research on information law and policy which affects everyone’s daily life,’ says Jules Winterton, director of the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies.

‘Under Dr Ni Loideain’s leadership the Centre will provide a base for important and timely academic activity in this area, pursuing its own research and also aligning with the institute’s mission to promote and facilitate the research of others in the UK and beyond.’

Commenting on her new role, Dr Ni Loideain confirms she is ‘delighted to have been appointed as the director of the Information Law and Policy Centre. I look forward to continuing to contribute to the excellent work of the Centre and to carry on the successes of the previous director, Dr Judith Townend.’

Full Programme: Annual Workshop and Evening Lecture

Restricted and Redacted: Where now for human rights and digital information control?

The full programme for the Information Law and Policy Centre’s annual workshop and lecture on Wednesday 9th November 2016 is now available (see below).

For both events, attendance will be free of charge thanks to the support of the IALS and our sponsor, Bloomsbury’s Communications Law journal.

To register for the afternoon workshop please visit this Eventbrite page.
To register for the evening lecture please visit this Eventbrite Page.

Please note that for administrative purposes you will need to book separate tickets for the afternoon and evening events if you would like to come to both events.

PROGRAMME

10.45am: REGISTRATION AND COFFEE 

11.15am: Welcome

  • Judith Townend, University of Sussex
  • Paul Wragg, University of Leeds
  • Julian Harris, Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, University of London

11.30am-1pm: PANEL 1 – choice between A and B

Panel A: Social media, online privacy and shaming

Chair: Asma Vranaki, Queen Mary University of London

  1. David Mangan, City, University of London, Dissecting Social Media: Audience and Authorship
  2. Marion Oswald, Helen James, Emma Nottingham, University of Winchester, The not-so-secret life of five year olds: Legal and ethical issues relating to disclosure of information and the depiction of children on broadcast and social media
  3. Maria Run Bjarnadottir, Ministry of the Interior in Iceland, University of Sussex, Does the internet limit human rights protection? The case of revenge porn
  4. Tara Beattie, University of Durham, Censoring online sexuality – A non-heteronormative, feminist perspective

Panel B: Access to Information and protecting the public interest

Chair: Judith Townend, University of Sussex

  1. Ellen P. Goodman, Rutgers University, Obstacles to Using Freedom of Information Laws to Unpack Public/Private Deployments of Algorithmic Reasoning in the Public Sphere
  2. Felipe Romero-Moreno, University of Hertfordshire, ‘Notice and staydown’, the use of content identification and filtering technology posing a fundamental threat to human rights
  3. Vigjilenca Abazi, Maastricht University, Mapping Whistleblowing Protection in Europe: Information Flows in the Public Interest

1-2pm: LUNCH 

2-3.30pm: PANEL 2 – choice between A and B

Panel A: Data protection and surveillance

Chair: Nora Ni Loideain, University of Cambridge

  1. Jiahong Chen, University of Edinburgh, How the Best Laid Plans Go Awry: The (Unsolved) Issues of Applicable Law in the General Data Protection Regulation
  2. Jessica Cruzatti-Flavius, University of Massachusetts, The Human Hard Drive: Name Erasure and the Rebranding of Human Beings
  3. Wenlong Li, University of Edinburgh, Right to Data Portability (RDP)
  4. Ewan Sutherland, Wits University, Wire-tapping in the regulatory state – changing times, changing mores

Panel B: Technology, power and governance

Chair: Chris Marsden, University of Sussex

  1. Monica Horten, London School of Economics, How Internet structures create closure for freedom of expression – an exploration of human rights online in the context of structural power theory
  2. Perry Keller, King’s College, London, Bringing algorithmic governance to the smart city
  3. Marion Oswald, University of Winchester and Jamie Grace, Sheffield Hallam University, Intelligence, policing and the use of algorithmic analysis – initial conclusions from a survey of UK police forces using freedom of information requests as a research methodology
  4. Allison Holmes, Kent University, Private Actor or Public Authority? How the Status of Communications Service Providers affects Human Rights

3.30-5pm: PANEL 3 – choice between A and B

Panel A: Intermediary Liability

Chair: Christina Angelopoulos, University of Cambridge

  1. Judit Bayer, Miskolc University, Freedom and Diversity on the Internet: Liability of Intermediaries for Third Party Content
  2. Mélanie Dulong de Rosnay, Félix Tréguer, CNRS-Sorbonne Institute for Communication Sciences and Federica Giovanella, University of Trento, Intermediary Liability and Community Wireless Networks Design Shaping
  3. David Rolph, University of Sydney, Liability of Search Engines for Publication of Defamatory Matter: An Australian Perspective

Panel B: Privacy and anonymity online

Chair: Paul Wragg, University of Leeds

  1. Gavin Phillipson, University of Durham, Threesome injuncted: has the Supreme Court turned the tide against the media in online privacy cases?
  2. Fiona Brimblecombe, University of Durham, European Privacy Law
  3. James Griffin, University of Exeter and Annika Jones, University of Durham, The future of privacy in a world of 3D printing

5-6pm: TEA BREAK / STRETCH YOUR LEGS

6-8pm: EVENING LECTURE AND DRINKS

Lecture Title: Heads and shoulders, knees and toes (and eyes and ears and mouth and nose…): The impact of the General Data Protection Regulation on use of biometrics.

Biometrics are touted as one of the next big things in the connected world. Specific reference to biometrics and genetic data has been included for the first time in the General Data Protection Regulation. How does this affect existing provisions? Will the impact of the Regulation be to encourage or to restrict the development of biometric technology?

  • Speaker: Rosemary Jay, Senior Consultant Attorney at Hunton & Williams and author of Sweet & Maxwell’s Data Protection Law & Practice.
  • Chair: Professor Lorna Woods, University of Essex
  • Respondents: Professor Andrea Matwyshyn, Northeastern University and Mr James Michael, IALS

Applications open…Senior Lecturer/Lecturer in Law & Director: Information Law and Policy Centre

As readers of this blog might already be aware our first Director, Dr Judith Townend, has moved on to a new post at the University of Sussex. This means the Information Law and Policy Centre is now looking for a new Director…

“The Institute of Advanced Legal Studies of the School of Advanced Study is now seeking a Lecturer/Senior Lecturer in Law and Director: Information Law and Policy Centre.

“The role will be responsible for developing the research promotion and facilitation, teaching/training and public engagement for the Information Law & Policy Centre.

“This position is offered at 3 years in the first instance with the possibility of permanent extension after this period.”

For more information and details of how to apply visit the University of London’s vacancy page.

The close date for this role is at midnight on Sunday, 23 October 2016. 

Update from the Information Law and Policy Centre

A reflection on what we’ve achieved to date, and a preview of what lies ahead for 2016/17

It is now 18 months since the official launch of the Information Law and Policy Centre at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies.

As the Centre’s first director, Dr Judith Townend, moves onto a new post at the University of Sussex, we thought it would be an opportune moment to offer you a brief summary of some of the Centre’s activities so far.

The Centre was launched in February 2015 with a remit to provide opportunities for academics, lawyers, policymakers, journalists, NGOs, charities and other parties to explore the way information and data is controlled, shared and disseminated.

As well as a small academic staff, its members include a number of associate research fellows based at various UK universities, and visiting fellows from around the world. An expert Advisory Board has helped us develop our programme of research.

At the launch event, presentations were given on topics as diverse as institutional data sharing, privacy vigilantism and cybersecurity. In the evening, Timothy Pitt-Payne QC, barrister at 11KBW and specialist in information rights, gave an informative and entertaining talk entitled ‘Does Privacy Matter?’

After an encouraging start, the Centre pursued a variety of inter-related research avenues.

One of the Centre’s main areas of interest during this period has been the progress of the Investigatory Powers Bill. During 2015, a team led by Professor Lorna Woods sought to establish the legal provenance of as many clauses in the draft Investigatory Powers Bill as possible. The Centre also collated commentary and other materials related to the Bill. These online resources support research into issues raised by the Bill around privacy, security and data sharing.

The Centre has also taken an active interest in the government’s Prevent strategy and the potential impact on freedom of expression and academic freedom brought about by the enforcement of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015. In October 2015, in collaboration with the Human Rights Consortium at the School of Advanced Study, the Information Law and Policy Centre held a one day event considering how the Act might affect universities, their staff and students. The keynote was delivered by the Rt Hon Sir Vince Cable.

The Centre’s work on intellectual property law, led by Dr Christina Angelopoulos (who will be taking up a post at the University of Cambridge in October), has focused primarily on the law of copyright. The Centre has been particularly interested in the relationship between human rights and copyright, the issue of intermediary liability for copyright infringement and the need to re-evaluate the position of copyright in the modern economic and technological landscape. Most recently the centre hosted the launch of Angela Daly’s new book on the legal implications of 3D printing for copyright law.

More broadly, the Information Law and Policy Centre has also contributed to events coordinated by the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies. In particular, the Centre has assisted with a number of events exploring the humanity of law including ‘The Humanity of Judging‘, ‘Judgecraft and Emotions’ and ‘The Humanity of Barristers: Stories from the Bar’. In June 2016, the Centre helped organised an exhibition of drawings from the UK Supreme Court and other courts which provide artist Isobel Williams’ perspective on the human participants involved in legal proceedings.

In between times, the Centre has considered a range of other issues including access to courts data and the principle of open justice, freedom of information and expression, the right to be forgotten, whistleblowing in the digital age, and the interaction of UK law with the EU in relation to the EU referendum.

Speakers have included the Scottish Information Commissioner Rosemary Agnew, Heather Rogers QC, former UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression Frank La Rue, Dominic Grieve QC MP,  Jessica Simor QC, and investigative journalists Heather Brooke and Ewen Macaskill. Numerous academics have joined discussion panels or led seminars; among these were Dr Judith Bannister, Professor Eric Barendt, Professor Ian Cram, and Professor Lilian Edwards.

We have offered training in law and ethics for research, and on public policy engagement for PhD students and early career researchers. A list of resources from our events and training can be found here.

We believe the Centre has had a strong start over the last 18 months and we would like to thank you for all your support of the Information Law and Policy Centre during this time. The Centre is only successful because of those of you who have attended events, given presentations, written guest blog posts, contributed to our research activities and encouraged us in the Centre’s work. We are especially grateful to our excellent advisors – both official and unofficial – and to all the external organisations and institutions with which we have partnered.

And more events are to come! Activities for autumn 2016 include ongoing research on protection for whistleblowers and journalists, an annual workshop themed on information control and human rights sponsored by Bloomsbury’s Communications Law journal (9th November), and a seminar and panel discussion at London’s Free Word Centre to celebrate 250 years since Freedom of Information took root in Sweden in 1766 (8th December).

Looking ahead, we hope the Information Law and Policy Centre has an important contribution to make in the future bringing together academics, policymakers and practitioners in this field to discuss and research these issues.

As such, we are looking forward to seeing how the Information Law and Policy Centre develops under a new Director who will be appointed in the near future: the post will be advertised shortly via the University of London website.

For inquiries about the Centre’s activities, please contact our part-time research assistant Dr Daniel Bennett (daniel.bennett@sas.ac.uk).

 

 

 

Whistleblowers and journalists in the digital age

Snowden

Dr Aljosha Karim Schapals, research assistant at the Information Law and Policy Centre, reports on a research workshop hosted by the University of Cardiff on Digital Citizenship and the ‘Surveillance Society’.

A workshop led by researchers at the Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies (JOMEC) on 27th June in London shared the findings of an 18 month ESRC funded research project examining the relationships between the state, the media and citizens in the wake of the Snowden revelations of 2013.

It was the concluding event of a number of conferences, seminars and workshops organised by the five principal researchers: Dr Arne Hintz (Cardiff), Dr Lina Dencik (Cardiff), Prof Karin Wahl-Jorgensen (Cardiff), Prof Ian Brown (Oxford) and Dr Michael Rogers (TU Delft).

Broadly speaking, the Digital Citizenship and the ‘Surveillance Society’ (DCSS) project has investigated the nature, opportunities and challenges of digital citizenship in light of US and UK governmental surveillance as revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Touching on more general themes such as freedom of expression, data privacy and civic transparency, the project aligns with the research activities of the Information Law and Policy Centre, which include developing work on journalism and whistleblower protection, and discussions and analysis of the Investigatory Powers Bill. Continue reading

Current vacancies in information law and policy

It seems that information law and policy jobs are just like buses … Here are several current opportunities to share with your networks. (If you have any to advertise, please let us know – we are happy to help spread the word).

Our friends at the Institute for Information Law (IViR) at the University of Amsterdam are looking for a PhD researcher in law and a Postdoc researcher in Communication Science/Journalism/Media Studies for a European ERC project Profiling and targeting news readers – implications for the democratic role of the digital media, user rights and public information policy:

Meanwhile, we – the Information Law and Policy Centre at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, University of London – are looking for a temporary part-time assistant. This role is for 2 days a week / 14 hours (with flexibility for vacations) and will be starting in May. Please apply via this link.

Update (11/05/2015): The University of Kent is advertising a funded PhD position available within the H2020 Marie Curie network NeCS, “Network of Excellence in Cyber Security”. This would be to do research in big data, privacy and data protection under the supervision of staff in the Kent Law School and School of Computing. More details at this link.

 

 

Some things old, some things new: A clause-by-clause review of the Draft Investigatory Powers Bill

ipbillSoon after the publication of the Draft Investigatory Powers Bill in November, a number of privacy, surveillance and freedom of expression specialist academics and practitioners gathered at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies to discuss the detail and the main issues.

Fairly quickly it was agreed that a clause-by-clause review of legislative sources would be a useful resource, to inform and complement wider commentary and committee submissions. Under Professor Lorna Woods’ stewardship, we carved up the Bill and compiling/reviewing/administrative roles between us.

Given the length of the main Bill document (299 pages) plus all the accompanying material and relevant legislation and reviews to consider, it was an ambitious task. But we have managed to (just) meet our pre-Christmas deadline and today have published a set of working documents that identify the provenance of as many as the clauses in the draft Investigatory Powers Bill as possible.

We have taken the view that the clauses can be ascribed to one of three groups:

  • The same as a pre-existing provision (or functionally equivalent);
  • Completely new; or
  • Amended/extended.

Where there are pre-existing sources, we have highlighted the relevant provision [see list]; for those that are completely new there are no such sources, but we have included references to the three reviews published in 2015: the Anderson Investigatory Powers Review; the ISC Privacy and Security report and the RUSI Independent Surveillance Review. As regards this latter aspect, only a brief sketch has been included; it is safe to say that there is more detail from the reports that could be pulled through were a more detailed analysis to be undertaken. The aim of this project was not however, to provide such an analysis but rather to provide a tool to assist others seeking to undertake such projects.

Although our primary objective related to the identification or relevant sources we have as part of the project flagged up the significance of the changes, as well as issues where we were not sure of the consequences of the drafting/changes identified. This we hope will give food for thought for others engaged in this area. While one of the stated aims of this legislative endeavour is to clarify the terms on which surveillance may take place, the resulting draft is still long and complex, with parts of the old, fragmented system for surveillance still remaining in place.

Follow the links below for a Part-by-Part review of drafting provenance. The chapters of some Parts have been split into different Google documents, which you can view and download. These working documents may be subject to change, following further assessment. Comments/suggestions to: ipbillresearchgroup@gmail.com. 

THEMES

Introduction of oversight
One of the important novelties of the draft IPB is the introduction of oversight mechanisms (via the Judicial Commissioner process: the ‘double lock’ mechanism, and the consolidation of various external review bodies into a new body, the IPC). While this is significant in terms accountability and control, there will be questions as to what the standards of judicial review actual are and whether ex post facto review is sufficient – questions that become increasingly important in the light of Grand Chamber judgments from both European courts regarding mass surveillance and technical bypassing of oversight procedures (eg. Schrems, Digital Rights Ireland, Zakharov). There are also questions about the independence of the IPC and the scope of his/her review functions, and regarding the operation of the new error reporting provisions.

Standardisation of warrant process
Looking at the warrant process, similar ideas can be seen reoccurring in respect of successive types of warrant – so length of warrants, process for renewal and cancellation. This is probably advantageous from the perspective of transparency and accessibility. Nonetheless, while the oversight was built on a common structure, there were small differences in the precise elaboration of that structure across the various parts of the draft IPB, for example the approach to material obtained under a cancelled warrant. In sum there is not just one, uniform system despite the strong similarity between the various parts of the bill. Further, the impact of the new structures in terms of comparison with what has gone before would vary depending on what went on before. So while it is no doubt a good thing that the bulk interception warrants are limited to 6 months, this means that some of the pre-existing warrants will be extended from the current 3 months.

Normalisation of techniques
This ‘standardisation’ process also means that things that seem to have been limited under RIPA to interception warrants have been applied across the whole range of warrants under IPB – a sort of normalisation of those techniques (e.g capability maintenance and national security notices). This takes place against a background in which there are new forms of warrant (or perhaps existing forms of warrant are recognised and put on a specific statutory footing).

Impact of definitions
The definitions are very important as they determine scope of application for particular provisions. The definitions have been changed, perhaps in response to technological and market developments. There are some questions as to the precise scope of some of these concepts (instances of difficult areas were given in the evidence to the Science and Technology Committee, for example). Because of their systemic effect, however, changes to definitions have far-reaching consequences for the meaning and consequently scope of various powers and indeed, some provisions which appear not to have changed in terms of the wording used, will have changed because of changes to the definitions of those words. Careful reading is required to understand the significance of this.

Not a totally consolidated system
The introduction to the bill emphasised that the aim of the bill is to consolidate the regime, so that provisions enabling surveillance are not scattered across a range of instruments, some of which were arguably not designed for that purpose, empowering a wide range of authorities to intrude. Certainly, the bill goes some way in this direction, enclosing some behaviours within a detailed oversight regime and foreclosing the use of some general powers. Nonetheless, key general powers remain – such as those in the Police Act and the Intelligence Services Act – although some attempt has been made to curtail their use in circumstances falling with the scope of this Bill.

 CONTRIBUTORS

This project was put together with the support of the Information Law and Policy Centre at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (IALS). The team, led by Professor Lorna Woods, was: Andrew Cormack, Ray Corrigan, Julian Huppert, Nora Ní Loideain, Eleanor Mitchell, Marion Oswald, Javier Ruiz Diaz, Jessica Simor, Graham Smith, Judith Townend, Caroline Wilson Palow, and Ian Walden. A wider group of  specialist academics and practitioners have been involved in discussions over email and at two meetings held at the IALS in autumn 2015.

Further resources