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Society, Politics & Law

OpenLearn Live: 4th November 2015

Updated Wednesday, 4th November 2015

The four-legged mayor who outfoxed the Chinese - and a quick guide to the Investigatory Powers Bill. Then more free learning through the day.

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OpenLearn Live brings free learning into your world, updated across the day. You can also follow us on Twitter.

Yesterday, we had a personal view on the right-to-die debate; caught up with John Cooper-Clarke and the Opium Eater and remembered Jennie Lee

See the complete collection of OpenLearn Live

Today's posts

Investigatory Powers Bill: A short reading list

Today, Theresa May introduced the Investigatory Powers Bill to the House of Commons. The bill is now published online, and here's May's introduction:

The means available to criminals, terrorists and hostile foreign states to co-ordinate, inspire and to execute their plans are evolving. Communications technologies that cross communications platforms and international borders increasingly allow those who would do us harm the opportunity to evade detection.

The use of investigatory powers is vital to locate missing people, to place a suspect at the scene of a crime or to identify who was in contact with whom. Powers to intercept communications, acquire communications data and interfere with equipment are essential to tackle child sexual exploitation, to dismantle serious crime cartels, take drugs and guns off our streets and prevent terrorist attacks.

The Government is committed to ensuring law enforcement and the security and intelligence agencies have the powers they need to keep us safe in the face of an evolving threat and an increasingly complicated communications environment. The Investigatory Powers Bill will do that in a way that ensures the use of those powers is subject to robust safeguards and visible, effective oversight.

Over the past year, three independent reviews have been undertaken into the use and oversight of investigatory powers: by the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism, David Anderson QC, and a panel convened by the Royal United Services Institute. Between them, they made nearly 200 recommendations. The Government has paid attention to the findings of those reviews. The draft Investigatory Powers Bill that has been published for pre-legislative scrutiny and public consultation builds on their recommendations to bring together all of the powers available to law enforcement and the security and intelligence agencies to acquire communications and communications data and make them subject to enhanced, consistent safeguards.

The provisions in the draft Bill are the product of discussion with industry, academia, technical experts and civil liberties groups. They seek to protect both privacy and security by improving transparency and through radical changes to the way investigatory powers are authorised and overseen. The draft Bill only proposes to enhance powers in one area – that of communications data retention – and then only because a strong operational case has been made.

The draft Bill provides a basis for further consultation over the coming weeks and months before a revised Bill is introduced to Parliament in the New Year. The issues covered in this draft Bill are matters of national importance and will rightly be subject to scrutiny and debate. I hope that you will take the time to share your views. 

BBC News has a summary of some of the main points of the Bill:

  • Giving a panel of judges the power to block spying operations authorised by the home secretary
  • A new criminal offence of "knowingly or recklessly obtaining communications data from a telecommunications operator without lawful authority", carrying a prison sentence of up to two years
  • Local councils to retain some investigatory powers, such as surveillance of benefit cheats, but they will not be able to access online data stored by internet firms
  • The Wilson doctrine - preventing surveillance of Parliamentarians' communications - to be written into law
  • Police will not be able to access journalistic sources without the authorisation of a judge
  • A legal duty on British companies to help law enforcement agencies hack devices to acquire information if it is reasonably practical to do so
  • Former Appeal Court judge Sir Stanley Burnton is appointed as the new interception of communications commissioner

One of the strongest critics of the proposals - talking before the Bill was published - was Wikipedia's Jimmy Wales. The Telegraph reported his concerns:

Jimmy Wales has suggested that Apple should stop selling iPhones in the UK, if the government passes a new law that would prevent technology firms and service providers from using end-to-end encryption to protect private communications.

In a tweet, the Wikipedia founder, who is a long-term defender of privacy rights, described the Investigatory Powers Bill (also known as the Snooper's Charter) as "stupid", and implied that the industry should take a stand.

Want to understand encryption a little better? Try this course extract

At The Register, Kelly Fiveash explained why the government is up against the clock:

The government had originally hoped to push the investigatory powers legislation through the Palace of Westminster before DRIPA's sunset provision expires at the end of 2016.

However, it will need to happen sooner than that now: the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act – which was rushed through Parliament as an "emergency" measure backed by all sides of the House in 2014 – was found to be unlawful by the High Court in July this year.

It means the government only has until March next year to rewrite DRIPA or all together replace it with fresh legislation.

One of the key things to come out of that decision was that judicial oversight of poking around and retaining netizens' web data needed to be baked into DRIPA to square it with the European Court of Justice and Blighty's High Court.

So any noise today about the government making concessions to placate privacy advocates is in fact a red herring, since it's now required by law to ensure such judicial oversight is there from the get-go.

The New Statesman's Barbara Speed spotted one piece of good news:

And good news for journalists: the bill would put into statute a "requirement for all applications for all applications to access the communications data for the purpose of identifying or confirming the identity of a journalist’s source to be authorised by a Judicial Commissioner". Sources: you're safe. Tips to the usual address. 

Want to know more about mass digital surveillance? Watch a short video

BBC Four, tonight, 10pm: Wild Weather with Richard Hammond

There's another chance to catch Richard Hammond's exploration of the extremes of weather around the globe tonight. The series starts with Richard discovering the power of wind - stop making up your own jokes at the back, please./p>

See more about the series, including behind-the-scenes clips

BBC Four, tonight, 9pm: Colour - The Spectrum of Science

Tonight, something new: Colour television. Dr Helen Czerski explores the way colour has shaped our world - both the ones we can see, and the ones beyond the edges of the visible spectrum.

Here's a taste of the programme:

Discover more about the series

Explore colour in culture and everyday life

Dog week: Bosco

This week, marking the anniversary of Laika's trip into space, we're meeting some noteworthy dogs. We heard about Laika's story yesterday. Today, we move from science to politics.

A statue of Bosco Creative commons image Icon Ferrous Büller under CC-BY-SA licence under Creative-Commons license A statue honouring Bosco

Dogs in politics aren't as rare as you might imagine (or, perhaps, hope). In Fairhope, Alabama, when a cafe owner was driven spare by campaigning politicians ignoring the neutrality of his shop, he fought back by putting his dog - Willie Bean Roscoe P. Coltrane - into the race. Unfortunately, he was too late to get on the ballot. In Marseille, Saucisse went from stray to mayoral candidate, but only managed four per cent of the poll. Although at least that's one per cent per leg, so that's something.

But Bosco Ramos did get the top job, becoming mayor of Sunol in California. Although the mayoral position in Sunol is honorary rather than one with any power, Bosco still faced two human challengers in his 1981 election, so he did have to legitimately win an election. The trouble is, not everyone appreciated that the election was a bit of fun.

The mouthpiece of the Chinese government, The People's Daily, ran an editorial suggesting that if in America people would return a dog to a governing role, this proved that democracy simply didn't work.

The dispute between Sunol and Beijing took on a more serious aspect when - following the brutal suppression of protests in Tiananmen Square, Bosco joined a thirty-hour protest against the Chinese government outside China's consulate in San Francisco.

Bosco died in office in 1994; after much local debate, a statue was erected to the mayor outside the Post Office.

Meet more amazing dogs in our Hound Hub

See more from OpenLearn about democracy





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