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April 04, 2007 | Becky Hogge

ElectionWatch 2007 - ORG goes north of the border

Breaking news from the Scottish Electoral Commission - ORG can observe the election in Scotland! This is fantastic news, as not only is Scotland electing its Parliament this 3 May, the entire vote will be e-counted.

But we haven't got much time - if you live in Scotland and would like to observe the Scottish elections as part of ORG's ElectionWatch 2007, please sign the pledge now, indicating where in Scotland you can observe. And please download one of our registration packs - ideally you'll need to post us your completed registration form by the end of the day today to ensure we can accredit you in time.

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March 30, 2007 | Becky Hogge

Less than two weeks 'til SO!(aP)

It's less than two weeks until Support ORG! (and Party) - the ORG supporter event on the evening of 11 April at Bar Kick, London. To recap - SO!(aP) is a chance for ORG supporters to meet one another, and we're asking each ORG supporter to bring at least one friend who they think would like to support ORG if they knew more about our work. The event will feature "public domain" music, remixed visuals and free culture goodie bags - truly an evening not to be missed.

And I'm pleased to announce that our very special guest speaker will be ORG's pledge founder - Danny O'Brien - who is flying in to the UK from his EFF outpost in San Francisco. What's more, we've got even more treats to add to the ORG raffle - a signed copy of Code 2.0 from Lawrence Lessig, £150 in O'Reilly book vouchers and... wait for it... a signed copy of the Gowers Review of Intellectual Property! But remember, you don't get a chance to win anything, if you don't buy a ticket (£2.50 each - available now via Paypal or on the night for cold, hard cash).

We want as many people as possible to come and join us for this event, so please spread the word. See you there!

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March 26, 2007 | Glyn Wintle

Dilemmas of Privacy and Surveillance

The Royal Academy of Engineering has just released a report entitled Dilemmas of Privacy and Surveillance Challenges of Technological Change. The report focuses on areas where the developments in IT have had a particularly significant impact on personal privacy. It gives examples of some of the harm that can be done by exposing people to these risks, for example while talking about RFID chips in British passports:

With sensitive personal details readable over a distance, it could even become possible, with appropriate antennas and amplification, to construct a bomb that would only detonate in the presence of a particular nationality or even a particular individual.

The report also covers proposed government databases holding sensitive personal information. It urges the government to prepare for failures in these systems.

There are a number of incidents in which a government or series of governments have suffered loss of trust due to poor role performance, or perceived poor performance. Crucially to the interests of this report, a number of these relate to the introduction of new technologies. For example, the implementation of a new computer system in the Child Support Agency (CSA) was considered a disaster, with many vulnerable people failing to receive child support payments due to its inadequate functioning. The failures associated with the CSA have been brought up in criticisms of plans for the NHS project 'Connecting for Health' which involves bringing modern computing systems to the NHS. They have also been raised in connection with the ID cards scheme and the associated National Identity Register (NIR).

Both past problems and recent difficulties mean that government is vulnerable when it comes to trust in their ability to implement a large IT project, or any other complex business change project. Of course, government is not alone in experiencing difficulties in implementing complex projects with a large IT component, but it is particularly vulnerable since its projects use public money and involve critical services such as the NHS.

The Academy calls for the government to take action to prepare for such failures, making full use of engineering expertise in managing the risks posed by surveillance and data management technologies. It also calls for stricter guidelines for companies who hold personal data, requiring companies to store data securely, to notify customers if their data are lost or stolen, and to tell them what the data are being used for. It recommends that engineering solutions should be devised which protect the privacy and security of data.

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March 23, 2007 | Becky Hogge

Footage from February e-voting events now online

Footage of ORG e-voting eventWe've finally got video footage from two of our February e-voting events online. Thanks to Tim, Felix, Chad, Laurence, Gavin and Ryan for pulling this together, and to archive.org for the bandwidth.

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March 23, 2007 | Becky Hogge

ORG Election Watch 2007: Registration Pack now online

Our guide to registering to become part of ORG's volunteer Election Watch 2007 team is now online. If you've already pledged to devote your day to democracy on May 3, by becoming an accredited election observer in one of the areas where e-voting and e-counting systems are being piloted, then Jason Kitcat will be contacting you soon. If you haven't, but you'd like to, please pledge now.

We have already succeeded in fielding 3 election monitoring teams. But we're still looking for people in to help us in the following areas:

  • Sheffield - only one more person needed for Pledge success!
  • South Bucks (in Pledgebank use “Denham” - the one near Uxbridge, Harefield, Fulmer)
  • Bedford
  • Breckland (in Pledgebank use “East Dereham”)
  • Dover
  • Stratford-upon-Avon
  • Warwick (in Pledgebank use the one near Leek Wootton, Old Milverton, Leamington)

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March 21, 2007 | Michael Holloway

ORG Raffle!

Update #3: Raffle is now closed! See you tonight!

Update #2: Less than 24 hours now until we close the raffle (tomorrow, noon), so get buying your tickets!

Update: more prize donations - signed copies of Lawrence Lessig's Code v2 and Andrew Gowers' Review of IP, and £150 worth of O'Reilly vouchers!

Oh you lucky, lucky people... here comes the inaugural ORG raffle! Tickets are £2.50 each and make excellent Easter gifts.

Gaiman and keyboard

Prizes include Neil Gaiman's (signed) keyboard, a signed copy of Bruce Schneier's Beyond Fear, a set of a dozen Beatpick compilations and a couple of extra special Doctorow donations: a signed author's galley of his next novel, Little Brother (forthcoming in 2008), and the opportunity to be written into it!

We'll make the draw as part of our spectacular 'Support ORG! (and Party)' 11 April event. All advance purchases (we'll close the paypal interface an hour or two before the party) will be assigned a paper ticket, then added together with tickets sold on the night for the grand draw, to be selected by our yet-to-be-disclosed special guest.

And if you haven't registered to attend Support ORG! (and Party) yet, get to it!

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March 20, 2007 | Michael Holloway

Patent Office want evidence to justify new copyright exceptions for artists

The Patent Office needs to hear from artists and creators. Please let us help you get in touch.

The Patent Office is charged with implementing the exciting recommendations suggested in the recent Gowers Review of IP. But they are yet to be convinced of the crucial need for some of these recommendations, mainly because they're finding it hard to get in touch with the relevant practioners. They are looking for concrete examples of creative practices inhibited by the law, to back up proposed exceptions for the purposes of "creative, transformative or derivative works" and "caricature, parody or pastiche".

Would you, your colleagues, students or collaborators benefit from these exceptions? Are you working or have you worked on a project outlawed by the overly-protectionst copyright regime, which would have benefited from these kinds of exceptions? If so, please get in touch - info[at]openrightsgroup.org - and share your experience.

Rights holders were of course quick to lobby against these suggested exceptions. In their opinion the dismal and labour-intensive "must-ask-permission!" culture of copyright-licensing works just fine as it is. They don't see the creative and social opportunities in remixing and poking fun, only the economic-downsides in losing control of their 'IP assets'.

But if you are a practicing artist with relevant experiences to share, please get in touch today so we can show the importance of copyright exceptions to Patent Office.

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March 14, 2007 | Suw Charman Anderson

links for 2007-03-14

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