At their annual conference, ORGCon14, Open Rights Group (ORG) have called on politicians to address surveillance by the police and security services in their manifestos for May's General Election. The digital campaigners believe that a big increase in ORG's membership over the last year and a half shows that surveillance is becoming a key issue for voters. They are calling on political parties to state their policies so that the electorate can make an informed choice about who will protect their rights to privacy and free speech.
ORG’s Executive Director Jim Killock said:
“The Government has failed to debate the issues but we know that the public wants and needs to hear about what is happening with privacy and free speech online.”
Speakers at the conference included the Liberal Democrat MP for Cambridge Julian Huppert, who urged delegates to apply pressure on MP candidates in the run up to the General Election. He said: “There is a profound problem with politicians. A lot just don't get it [digital issues] so take very simplistic views....Fear is incredibly powerful and you do have to work hard to change it.”
With regard to comments made by GCHQ Director Robert Hannigan that tech companies should do more to fight terrorism, Labour MEP Claude Moraes said it was, “outrageous for a civil servant to be making those statements”. He added: “I want our politicians in the run up to the General Election to have a mature debate ... rather than a positioning debate.”
The Leader of the Green Party, Natalie Bennett said:
“While we're talking about digital rights, we're also talking about rights and freedoms...you don't protect freedom, democracy, rights by destroying them...that really needs to be challenged.”
ORG is calling for an end to the blanket surveillance of our personal communications and new legislation that would make the security services accountable to Parliament.
ORGCon is ORG's annual conference where high profile writers, speakers and activists give their insights into the big issues affecting civil liberties and the Internet. The event was attended by over 450 people and took place over two days in London.