December 18, 2015 | Ruth Coustick-Deal
Ten Triumphs of 2015
Let's take a moment to look back on 2015, and some of our top moments during this year.
- We saw off a sneaky attempt to introduce Snoopers’ Charter into law. Four members of the House of Lords tried to insert the text of the Snoopers’ Charter into the Counter Terrorism and Security Bill, just when that Bill was at its final stages. With only a few days notice, ORG responded, galvanising supporters to call Lords and explain why this was unacceptable. The Lords saw sense and the amendments were dropped.
- ORG’s legal intervention was key to the successful challenge of the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act. Our exertise and fantastic legal support meant that parts of DRIPA were found to unlawful by the High Court. The successful judicial review was brought by Liberty, represented by David Davis MP and Tom Watson MP, with ORG and PI acting as intervenors.
- Our Scotland office was launched and in its first months challenged a scheme that could have introduced an identity card system.
These plans could have been sneaked in through a minor public consultation but thanks to our strong press work and lobbying, we made the Scottish parliament and the public aware of what was happening. Along with ORG, over 200 supporters submitted their views to the consultation in February and the plans appear to be on hold. We also held an ‘ORG Scotland Day’ with author Charles Stross on 10th May to ask members in Scotland to contribute to shaping the future of the organisation.
- The Government finally published a comprehensive new surveillance law - the Investigatory Powers Bill. This is something we’ve been calling for since the Snowden revelations. There are many things wrong with the Bill but its publication is an acknowledgement that the Government needs to be more transparent about surveillance - and this will make it much easier for us to challenge what is in it.
- We taught practical digital skills to groups from jounalists and NGOs to school children and teachers.
A lot of our work this year was educational: we created a security and threat modeling training programme for journalists, activists. We ran a series of interactive workshops at Being Watched, an all day conference for young women, aimed at helping them to regain control in the online world. We collaborated with Chris Pounder to provide data protection training for NGO staff, who are now better equipped to campaign and protect their supporters from misuse of personal data. Plus, our local groups ran a series of ‘cryptoparties’ teaching people about online privacy and security at an introductory level, with events taking place in Cardiff, Sheffield & Brighton, Bristol and Edinburgh through March & April
- Working jointly with Wikipedia we forced MEPs to drop their attack on 'freedom of panorama'
This is an important copyright exception that means we are free to photograph or paint a work of art that's in a public place - like a scultpure or a building. During the process of creating new copyright law in the EU, some MEPs proposed removing this ability across Europe. We helped supporters tell their MEPs to vote the idea down - and the proposal was swiftly taken out of the vote altogether!
- ‘Collect it all: GCHQ and Mass Surveillance’, the first full report into the substance of the Snowden revelations was written and published by ORG. The substantial review is a thorough guide to the slides and documents Snowden leaked, and has been published as an ebook.
- We challenged candidates to take a positive stance for digital rights in the 2015 election. We organised hustings in Bristol, Brighton and Manchester to give voters the opportunity to ask questions on surveillance to their Parliamentary candidates. We ran training sessions with members based in London, Manchester and Sheffield on talking to candidates, writing to local press and organising campaign events. Our briefing pack with key questions and myths about surveillance helped supporters speak out on these issues. On top of which, we built a tool which reported on candidate's stances on surveillance.
- The bad bits of the Investigatory Powers Bill are being thoroughly challenged in our on-going campaign. In just a few weeks since the release of the Bill, we’ve given evidence in Parliament, submitted long form evidence, made a lot of press appearances, and helped supporters write to their MP about the new law.
- As the year drew to a close, we celebrated ten years of Open Rights Group! With 100s of campaign actions, and 1,000s of supporters, ORG has stood up for your rights for over a decade!
So what's the plan for 2016?
In the new year we're going to launch a public-facing campaign on the Investigatory Powers Bill. The Joint Committee, who are examining the Bill, will report back in February and there will be media and political interest in what they have to say. At this point we need to put pressure on MPs and members of the House of Lords who will amend, debate and vote on the Bill.
The focal point of this campaign will be a short film that shows exactly what mass surveillance means and the implications of what the Government is proposing. If we raise enough money, we will also produce other marketing materials, such as ads and flyers to increase awareness.
Can you help us make it happen?