Investigatory Powers Bill Tells Technology Companies to Keep Quiet
In early November the UK’s Home Secretary Theresa May presented to Parliament the Draft Investigatory Powers Bill. It effectively replaced, offering in a diminished form, the Draft Communications Data Bill which May initially proposed back in 2012. Becoming known as the ‘Snoopers’ Charter’, and receiving criticism with regard to privacy, security, oversight, accountability, and cost, the Draft Communications Data Bill was subsequently blocked by the Conservative Party’s coalition partners the Liberal Democrats.
The Draft Investigatory Powers Bill as published would require Communications Service Providers to store for 12 months records of the websites visited by every citizen. For the first time it would explicitly allow the bulk collection of personal communications data, as well as targeted data interception, and bulk data interception relating to individuals outside of the UK. It plans to allow the intelligence services and police, where warranted, to engage in ‘equipment interference’. And it would place a legal obligation on companies to assist in these efforts to intercept data and bypass encryption.
The Bill would introduce a single Investigatory Powers Commissioner, who would be a senior judge. Under the leadership of this role, judicial commissioners would be responsible for approving data and interference requests. The Investigatory Powers Commissioner would retain the right to inform individuals who have been subject to surveillance in error. Other safeguards contained within the Bill mean that the Prime Minister would be consulted in cases relating to MPs, while there would be some protection for ‘sensitive professions’ including journalists.
The Draft Investigatory Powers Bill is currently being considered by a parliamentary Joint Select Committee, which brings together members from both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Expert witnesses are invited to give oral and written evidence to the Committee, while it was possible to make a written submission independently up until 21 December. The Committee held its first session on 30 November, and is expected to report its findings by 11 February.
Despite the attempt to mollify critics by emphasising the Bill’s new oversight regime, the bulk collection of personal communications data has been rejected in the USA, Canada, Australia, and throughout the rest of Europe. And this week a disclosure provision detailed in a note to the Bill emerged, which seeks to criminalise technology companies who inform users that requests for their data have been made. Company bosses could face a maximum two-year prison sentence.
The note says it ‘will ensure that a communication service provider does not notify the subject of an investigation that a request has been made for their data unless expressly permitted to do so’. Exceptions could be made where ‘the public authority is content’, but in most cases would be considered ‘detrimental to the investigation’.
In June David Anderson, the government’s Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, issued a report which suggested, ‘Some service providers will tip off a customer that they are under surveillance unless persuaded not to do so, typically by a court order.’ Facebook, Twitter, and Yahoo are among those companies who have offered their users assurances related to data requests.
Responding to the emergence of the note, Antony Walker, the deputy chief executive officer at techUK, said ‘A right of redress by the citizen depends upon individuals being notified at some appropriate time that requests have been made to access their data. By preventing companies from notifying consumers about requests for access to data the Investigatory Powers Bill risks being out of step with the direction of international law.’
* * *
A New Year’s Hip Hop Bonanza
Kanye West counted down last New Year’s Eve with the release of ‘Only One’, the song devoted to his daughter North, and this year he returned on 31 December with ‘FACTS’. The track samples Father Children’s ‘Dirt and Grime’, and finds Kanye emphasising his accomplishments with adidas while dissing his old sneaker collaborators Nike, before broaching an array of topical subject matter including the sexual assault allegations against Bill Cosby, Steve Harvey’s convoluted announcement of the wrong Miss Universe 2015, and the KIMOJI app which provides purchasers with more than 250 Kim Kardashian emojis.
Kendrick Lamar also heralded the New Year, unveiling the short film God Is Gangsta. The 7-minute-long video incorporates the tracks ‘u’ and ‘For Sale? (Interlude)’ from To Pimp a Butterfly, with the first part directed by Jack Begert alongside Lamar and Dave Free, who together comprise the little homies, and the second part directed by PANAMÆRA, Lamar, and Free, with filming taking place at Silencio, David Lynch‘s nightclub in Paris.
Lil B followed up August’s Free (Based Freestyle Mixtape) alongside Chance The Rapper with Thugged Out Pissed Off, a new mixtape comprising a whopping 63 original songs. Pusha T shared the video for ‘M.P.A.’, the latest track from his album King Push – Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude, which was released 18 December. ‘M.P.A.’ features vocals from Kanye West, A$AP Rocky, and The-Dream, with Kanye, Che Pope, and J. Cole on production, and the video stars A$AP and The-Dream on a film set under the direction of Shomy Patwary. DJ Shadow released ‘Swerve’, believed to be from an as-yet-untitled upcoming album. And the past week also brought a suggested February date for the much anticipated collaboration between Ghostface Killah and DOOM.
* * *
Kennedy Center Honors Feels Aretha Franklin
Each December five artists receive the Kennedy Center Honors, awarded for a lifetime of contributions to American culture. An invitation-only weekend in Washington, D.C. incorporates a Chairman’s Luncheon, State Department dinner, and White House reception, before the honorees are celebrated with a star-studded gala at the Kennedy Center Opera House. The gala is typically broadcast between Christmas and New Year in a 90-minute edit by CBS.
For 2015, the 38th Annual Kennedy Center Honors, the five honorees were singer-songwriter Carole King, filmmaker George Lucas, actress and singer Rita Moreno, conductor Seiji Ozawa, and actress and Broadway star Cicely Tyson. Yet the highlight of the gala, which aired on CBS on Tuesday night, proved to be Aretha Franklin, who performed her 1967 hit single ‘(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman’, which was co-written by Carole King, Gerry Goffin, and Jerry Wexler. At 73 years of age, Franklin’s stellar rendition even seemed to swell the emotions of onlooking President Barack Obama – or perhaps he was simply tired or experiencing ocular discomfit.
* * *
Seriously Medieval Art?
This gallery of images posted over the past week on Imgur is more than simply amusing: it offers us a reciprocal relationship with medieval and Renaissance art and its practitioners, emphasising a common thread of playfulness, a shared sense of the fantastic, the absurd, and the grotesque, an equal willingness to delight in perversity.
* * *
The Best Fails and News Bloopers of 2015
2015 didn’t exist without people falling flat on their faces or ludicrously garbling their words on live TV. If you haven’t spent the best part of the last year laughing at others, promise to do better in 2016. Here are the best fails and news bloopers of the year, courtesy of YouTube’s FailArmy and NewsBeFunny.