Reviews of Legislation covering Social Media, RIPA, Surveillance, Data Protection etc. in the light of experiences with the recent UK Riots

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PICTFOR (the merger of PITCOM and the All-Party Digital Economy Group) has requested inputs to the Government Review of Social Media following the riots. In parallel EURIM is organising closed workshops on the Review of RIPA and other procedures.   

Call by Rt Hon Alun Michael MP for inputs to Government Review of Social Media

Last week, evidence emerged that mobile applications and social media websites had been used by rioters to organise looting and violent activity and to promote gossip about where "action" was going to happen. The Home Secretary, Theresa May told the Commons last Thursday : "Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter and messaging services like Blackberry Messenger have been used to coordinate criminality, and stay one step ahead of the police."

That was certainly the first message that came out of the news, but there is also been a considerable amount of emerging evidence of the police being able to use such communications to track trends and detect crimes.  And we have also seen very effective use of social media as a means of communicating people to set up successful community clean-up initiatives and to draw the community together. 

All of this brings a particular focus to something that for some years has occupied those MPs who take an interest in ICT, mobile and Internet issues. Across parties, we have worked successfully to promote "Internet Governance" rather than legislation or top-down regulation as the best way to promote the benefits of mobile and internet communications while preventing misuse and law-breaking. There is now a real opportunity for us to contribute to this important discussion.

As you will be aware, the Government is currently asking whether social media needs greater regulation. Theresa May plans to meet RIM, Twitter and Facebook to discuss the role of social media during the riots. Some of them had briefed MPs last week about the way in which they were working with the police and we need to unsure that the experience of MPs and a wider range of Industry players is fed into the Government's deliberations.

With all that in mind, I shall be grateful if you will feed in your own comments and experience:

  • Did you have direct experience during last week's events and their aftermath ?

  • Have you had comments from constituents or police or business people that are relevant ?

  • How best can MPs and Peers, across Party, contribute to intelligent public debate ?

  • How can we co-ordinate informed debate that can help Government and Parliament in looking for the right way forward ?

Please respond by Friday 26th August to so views can be drawn together. 


Calling notice for EURIM Workshop on experience with RIPA, PACE and practical procedures  

The practical working of the legislation covering the interception of mobile and online communications is to be reviewed as a matter of urgency.

The authorisation routines are said to impede operational co-operation between the Police, Telcos, Mobile Operators and ISPs while failing to protect against abuse. There are also problems with interpretations of Data Protection legislation regarding exemptions for co-operation with law enforcement and routines for voluntary co-operation.

  • What is it reasonable to try to achieve rapidly and what should be taken over the longer term?

  • How much can be achieved by streamlining request and authorisation processes within existing legal frameworks (including the statutory instruments for RIPA etc.)?

  • How much can be achieved by administrative guidance, including from the Surveillance and Information Commissioners?

  • How much needs new legislation – statutory instruments or primary legislation?

There are also issues concerning the operational use of mobiles, to enable offenders to be arrested at the scene of crime, with supporting documentation and images transmitted online.

  • Do the “system” changes to support this require legislation (primary or secondary) or can what is needed be done under existing law?

Please e-mail if your organisation would like to participate in workshops on the issues on which consultation may be needed. It would be helpful if you could state whether your proposed participants will have been security cleared because this may be necessary to enable some players to join us for informed and constructive discussion.

The first workshop, for security cleared participants only, will take place on the morning of 23rd September. This is timed to enable some of those currently fully loaded with handling the operational backlog to draw breath and open the discussion with a reality check.  


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