AS THE FALLOUT from last week's referendum continues to reverberate, the Open Rights Group (ORG) has examined digital rights in the UK and what we can expect when the UK finally negotiates its way out of the European Union.
Jim Killock, executive director of the ORG, explained that people in the UK will not have a clear idea of their digital rights in the future because nearly all the relevant law today emanates from the EU.
The problem of digital rights remains as up in the air as everything else at the moment, but a lot will depend on the kind of model that the UK adopts on leaving the EU.
"Nothing changes in the short term. The UK must abide by legislation and incorporate new regulations and directives as they come along. Decisions of the Court of Justice of the European Union [CJEU] must be implemented," said Killock in an even-handed blog post.
Current EU laws that are applicable in the UK, and which will continue to be applicable post-Brexit until they are repealed, cover data protection, e-privacy, net neutrality, telecoms and copyright. This is because the EU directives require national parliaments to pass equivalent legislation, and they are therefore a full part of UK law.
However, things may change. "EU legislation ... has to abide by fundamental rights, defined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights and interpreted and enforced through the CJEU. Outside the EU, the direct influence of the CJEU on UK law will be much lessened," wrote Killock.
"In the longer term the CJEU and European Court of Human Rights [ECHR] should work to the same privacy standards, so in theory the UK's legislation will still be subject to the same considerations.
"However, the ECHR does not make instructions to UK legislators, but sets principles which must be taken into account when looking at laws. This leaves a lot of flexibility in the hands of legislators.
"In contrast, the CJEU as an EU court makes direct instructions to EU institutions about laws and decisions, which has been demonstrably effective."
Leaving the EU will lessen the UK's influence on EU laws that may still have an impact on the UK, argued Killock, and that influence may depend on the Brexit model that is followed, such as the 'Norwegian model' or European Economic Area (EEA) membership.
The EEA has its own court, but it is largely for trade disputes and does not consider human rights issues.
An outside possibility is a full Brexit and a bonfire of EU regulations. "For UK digital rights, this would be the most concerning. The pressure to deregulate in order to compensate for the loss of single market access would be very high. The changes could be made very swiftly, with little democratic oversight," warned Killock.
"We would need to be confident that the UK develops much stronger constitutional protections for human rights to be fully supportive of a solution along these lines.
"We would need to be convinced that parliament would be in control of the changes and would be given sufficient time to consider the changes it would be making."
There will also be privacy concerns about initiatives such as the Passenger Name Record legislation, and UK companies trading with EU citizens would almost certainly be obliged to maintain EU data protection standards, i.e. comply with the EU General Data Protection Regulation.
"The digital environment is already international. There are good reasons for laws to become more consistent, rather than less. Whatever solution is adopted, this pressure will exist," wrote Killock. µ
Typical politicians - meme, meme, me
But it keeps the juicy details firmly under wraps
And Sonny and Cher is on the radio