March 10, 2014 | Ruth Coustick-Deal

Support ORG's Censorship Monitoring Project

ORG are building tools to monitor the effects of default filtering in the UK

Can you join us now to help keep this project going?

We want to end the UK-wide censorship system of web blocking by holding ISPs and the Government accountable.

We know that default filters prevent people accessing important and legal information. Over-blocking is a serious and unavoidable effect of filtering.  Yet ISPs give website owners and customers minimal information on why and what is being blocked, or how to report problems.

This is why ORG's Censorship Monitoring project is building tools to monitor and challenge filtering.

You can already report overblocking on our website,, but we want to do much more. This tool will check automatically whether the URLs you submit can be reached via all major UK fixed line ISPs and mobile networks. Future versions will let you explore the extent and history of filtering in the UK and will publish the raw data for you to reuse.

This work is only possible thanks to the generosity of the tech activism community. ORG volunteers are giving their time, Bytemark Hosting are donating the server and Andrews & Arnold are subscribing the project up to all the other ISPs.

Can you join them?

ORG merchandise and branded itemsJoin ORG now and double your gift

We've been offered up to £3000 in matched funding to support this project. Please help us keep the work going. We've only got enough funding to cover project management for 3 months. But with this matched funding gift you can make that 6 and double the impact of your donation!

For every £1 you give we'll get £2, whether that's through joining up for a regular Direct Debit or giving a one-off donation. If you join up to ORG, your donation for the first year will be doubled.

Join by Direct Debit


Donate with Paypal

What are the benefits to being an ORG supporter?

  • You'll get discounts to all our ticketed events
  • Give £5/month or more and you'll get a free ORG t-shirt!
  • You'll get a copy of our latest reports and ORG stickers to show your support
  • Vote (or stand!) in board elections
  • You'll help influence our policy and direction throughout the year
  • You'll join an engaged community of activists taking direct action to stand up for digital rights

Why join ORG? 

ORG are a small organisation but we punch well above our weight. Besides defending digital rights in the courts, we've done considerable work on surveillance, privacy, copyright, open data and data protection.

  • We're working with a huge coalition of campaigners and civil liberties groups to generate a mass joint campaign against state surveillance as revealed by Edward Snowden
  • We're running a legal challenge at the European Court of Human Rights, arguing that the Government's authoritarian surveillance practices have been unlawful.
  • We successfully campaigned against the Snoopers' Charter for 2 years and made sure it was dropped
  • We produced our Digital Surveillance report offering reasonable alternatives to proposed investigatory powers
  • We won Human Rights Campaigner of the Year at the 2012 Liberty awards

How do I join?

Joining by Direct Debit is the best way for us.

You can also set up a PayPal subscription, but we prefer Direct Debits: it’s cheaper for ORG to process and means more of your hard earned cash can make a difference.

Student? Join for only £5/year - click here

If you want to help make this project real you can learn more about how to get involved here:

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March 07, 2014 | Jim Killock

The world we want and how we get there

Today we've published on our about page a new definition of the world we want to see, explaining how we are working to achieve our aims.

We wrote this short statement of our aims, objectives and values after asking all our supporters what you thought we should be working on, and what you thought our values are. We think it's a real call to arms:

We uphold human rights like free expression and privacy. We condemn and work against repressive laws or systems that deny people these rights.
We campaign, lobby, go to court – whatever it takes to build and support a movement for freedom in the digital age. We believe in coalition, and work with partners across the political spectrum to support an informed population of Internet users who understand and fight for their rights in the digital age.
We scrutinize and critique the policies and actions of governments, companies, and other groups as they relate to the Internet. We warn the public when policies – even well-intentioned ones – stand to undermine the freedom to use the Internet to make a better society.

It's the first major result of our strategy work, which this year has involved ORG talking to all of our supporters, local groups, partners and allies, as well as our staff, board and Advisory Council about our work and our future.

On April 12, many of our supporters and volunteers will be meeting to discuss our future. We're looking at quite a few options for new projects and initiatives, and thinking hard about how we grow over the next three years.

We want to involve you in two ways. Firstly, if you're a long term volunteer and want to come to the strategy day, let me know as there are a few places left. Secondly, we will be sending a poll to all our supporters asking you how much you like the new ideas. This will help inform our discussions in April.

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February 28, 2014 | Javier Ruiz

ICO Survey on the Code of Practice on Anonymisation

The Information Commissioner's Office is asking for feedback on their Code of Practice on 'anonymisation', but the survey does not ask the right questions. We explain the issues.

The ICO survey on the Code of Practice on Anonymisation closes today.

Asking for comments and feedback on the code is a positive move, but the survey is not balanced to capture a variety of opinions. For example it asks whether the code explains the benefits of anonymisation, but not whether it explains the risks. And it doesn't.

The survey also has space for comments on the style and language of the code, but not on the content, which is surely at least as important.

The code itself is a good initiative but it falls short in certain areas. For example, some of the concepts are not properly explained.

“We draw a distinction between anonymisation techniques used to produce aggregated information, for example, and those – such as pseudonymisation – that produce anonymised data but on an individual-level basis.”

Presenting pseudonymisation – which involves converting transparent identifiers such as names into reference codes - as a proper anonymisation technique could lead to dangerous releases of personal information. In many contexts we would argue that pseudonymous data should have the same levels of protection as fully identifiable data.

In general, the code presents an excessively optimistic narrative that could encourage risks to be downplayed. The current debate on is a good example of this.

The code should stress that effective anonymisation is possible, but it is hard to achieve and we should be very careful when releasing data.

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February 11, 2014 | Peter Bradwell

Join our new campaign to fight mass surveillance

Today, alongside an unprecedented coalition of leading privacy and human rights groups, we're launching Don't Spy On Us. We need your help.

You can learn more about the new campaign, sign our petition and email your MP at our new Don't Spy On Us campaign site.

Since 5th June last year we have read a series of revelations about the reach and power of our surveillance agencies. We've learnt about blanket collection of all sorts of digital information and the sharing of this data between the US and UK.

Our intelligence agencies do vital work for which we should all be grateful and which we all benefit from. But for Open Rights Group, and many others like us, the stories showed surveillance agencies exploit laws that have been rendered out of date by technology to collect too much information about too many people with too little democratic oversight.

The revelations can leave you feeling a bit powerless. You know something seems really wrong, but can you do anything about how our most secretive and powerful institutions work? How do you even begin to change how so many laws, programs and oversight bodies work?

Today our fightback begins in earnest. With our new campaign, Don't Spy on Us, we're intent on ending the blanket surveillance we've heard about because of Edward Snowden. Alongside our campaign partners, we want to change our archaic surveillance laws. We need your help.

We've got new demands for how the government can act quickly to make sure surveillance carried out in our name respects our privacy rights.

We're setting out six powerful principles that we want surveillance law to stick to. We're calling for an inquiry to be concluded before the election, and for the government to then proceed with legislation that upholds the principles we've set out.

This need to start happening now. Not in a few years after some drawn out mega inquiry, or in three Parliament's time. The government has to start listening now, accept the need for reform and commit to changing how our intelligence services work and are governed.

We've got an ambitious plan. But we can do it. We will need your help. We hope you'll want to join us and be part of such an important campaign.

You can help now by signing our petition and emailing your MP. You can do both at our new campaign site. Tell your friends, tell your family, tell your colleagues.

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February 07, 2014 | Ed Johnson-Williams

Don't Spy On Us - Help get the word out!

GCHQ from the airOn Tuesday, internet users all over the world are standing up to say no to GCHQ and the NSA's mass surveillance. Over the last eight months we've heard plenty about how intelligence agencies monitor us on the Internet.

Our surveillance laws have let the intelligence agencies extend their reach deep into our private lives.

Tuesday 11th February is The Day We Fight Back.

As part of this global day of action against mass surveillance, Open Rights Group, Liberty, English PEN, Privacy International, Article 19 and Big Brother Watch are coming together to launch Don't Spy on Us.

On Tuesday, we'll be launching Don't Spy On Us and calling for:

  • an independent inquiry into UK surveillance to report before the General Election
  • a new law that will fundamentally reform the way GCHQ carries out mass surveillance

In the meantime, could you promise to send a Tweet or post a Facebook status on Tuesday to help get the word out about the Don't Spy On Us campaign? If enough people make that promise, we'll be able to make Don't Spy On Us appear on social media timelines around the country and the world.

It only takes a minute. Take action here.

Open Rights Group and the other campaign groups working with us on the Don't Spy On Us campaign were integral to getting last year's Snoopers Charter blocked. But after the Snowden revelations, we know that the challenge of stopping GCHQ's mass surveillance is much greater.

Hundreds of people tweeting and posting Facebook statuses at once on Tuesday will really help grab lots of people's attention - people who don't always pay attention to privacy concerns and mass surveillance.

We're relying on all our supporters to spread the word about the campaign and build the pressure on the decisions-makers in Government.

Pledge now to send a Tweet or post a Facebook status on Tuesday morning!

Image by the Ministry of Defence under the Open Government Licence v1.0

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February 04, 2014 | Jim Killock

You did it!

Over 200 people joined ORG – raising enough to pay for two extra days so we can hire a full time Legal Director.

help hire a legal directorYou can still help out – there are always extra costs, including rent and fees for legal publications, that an extra contribution can cover costs for.

This is the biggest spike in membership in a single month that we've seen since hundreds of people joined after the passing of the Digital Economy Act – which is still not implemented, thanks to your work showing how bad the legislation is. And yesterday, Parliament continued their work repealing the dangerous website blocking powers the DEA still contains.

ORG's supporters have grown from just over 1500 a year ago to past 2100 today – that's 40% growth in a year. Your funding means we can now start a full-fledged legal track, as well as continue the campaigning work we do on privacy, surveillance, filtering and free speech.

We've ambitious ideas for the future: there's much more to be done. We need greater depth to our policy, campaigns and expertise. We've been thinking about the kinds of changes we need to see – so more of this later. For now, we'd just like to say thank you to everyone who joined, rejoined or increased their contribution. You've made an enormous step forward possible.

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February 03, 2014 | ORG Law project

Our lawyers want to have a word with you

We are lawyers who work with the Open Rights Group. You and the Open Rights Group can make a huge difference in the UK and European courts, defending your digital rights.

Help hire ORG's Legal Director

That’s why we are asking you to join ORG today, so they can hire a Legal Director. We need just a few more people to hire them full time.

But perhaps it’s best if we explain in our own words:

“The appointment of a legal director will make a real impact on the work of the Open Rights Group.  It has never been more important to have informed interventions at the High Court and appeal courts on matters to do with digital rights.

“I know from my own experience as appeal solicitor in the “Twitter Joke Trial” the difference it makes when courts properly understand technological issues, especially when imposing criminal liability on the citizen”

David Allen Green, solicitor at Preiskel & Co LLP and member of Advisory Council, ORG.

“In the US, digital freedoms have been fought for and won in historic legal battles such as Reno v ACLU  and countless smaller cases where the EFF and other digital rights groups have helped take on cases involving freedom of speech online, privacy online, cyber- harassment, vindictive copyright enforcement and so on. In the UK until now civil society has never had the capacity to take such important legal cases. Help ORG hire a Legal Director to change this and bring UK law into the 21st century.”

Dr Lilian Edwards, Professor of Internet Law at Strathclyde University and ORG Advisory Council 

“ORG is a vital partner with EFF in addressing mass surveillance. Just as GCHQ and NSA work together, it's increasingly critical that we strengthen the capabilities of groups on both sides of the Atlantic to push back to regain our privacy and free speech.”

Cindy Cohn, Legal Director, Electronic Frontier Foundation

“There is no doubt that Parliament and the Courts have struggled with the challenges posed by the explosion of online interaction and the growing importance of rights in an increasingly digital world. Decisions made now will shape the approach that the Law takes for decades and possibly longer. This is a key moment. ORG speaks up for those whose interests are usually discounted when it comes to governmental and judicial policy making – it speaks up for you and everyone else who lacks a vested interest and a lobbying budget. A Legal Director is exactly what ORG needs at exactly the time we all most need ORG.”

Seán Jones, barrister at 11KBW Chambers

“The law can be an instrument of repression but it can also be a powerful tool for change. Your support for ORG's Legal Director post can make a real difference in the fight for digital freedom in the UK.”

Eric Metcalfe, barrister at Monckton Chambers and former director of human rights policy at JUSTICE

“Please help with the appointment of a Legal Director for the Open Rights Group. In my personal experience, ORG have initiated valuable interventions on civil liberties issues affecting millions of adults in the UK, such as filtering.”  

Myles Jackman, Law Society Junior Lawyer of the Year and Consultant Solicitor-Advocate at Hodge Jones and Allen LLP 

"As an American lawyer I've seen how important it is to have boots on the ground to defend civil liberties in court.  Even when the underlying law itself is designed to protect civil liberties, being able to appeal directly to the courts may be the only way to keep them protected not just in theory but in practice." 

Cathy Gellis, US Tech and civil liberties lawyer

“I have had the honour of working with ORG to do some marvellous work: both intervening in high profile cases and working behind the scenes to help individuals who have fallen foul of laws that were not or should not have been drafted for the modern digital world. I am convinced that ORG could do so much more with the assistance of a full-time legal director and I am excited by all the things that ORG could do if it had one. Money pledged for this purpose will be money well spent.”

Francis Davey, Independent barrister and ORG legal volunteer

We need just a handful more people to join to make this project happen. Please help us hire a full time Legal Director by joining the Open Rights Group today!


ORG Legal volunteers and ORG Law group

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January 29, 2014 | Cory Doctorow

Open Rights Group and impact litigation

I’m writing this blog today ORG has an unprecedented opportunity to make a difference to the world's digital future -- a chance to argue before the European Court of Human Rights in coalition with Big Brother Watch and English PEN, in a crucial case over GCHQ's lawless program of indiscriminate, total Internet surveillance.

cory-doctorow-cc-by-joiThis case not only marks a chance to make a change for better—it also marks a new stage in ORG's growth as an organisation that makes the Internet safe for human habitation. 

But we can't do it without your help.

I was working for the Electronic Frontier Foundation when I helped found the Open Rights Group. EFF is an American digital rights group with a long tradition of winning important fights, using a variety of innovative tactics — but one of the most effective tools in its toolchest was "impact litigation."

Impact litigation uses consitutions as a back-door into the legislative system. The rich and powerful can buy themselves any number of unjust laws through the front door, or even commit crime by impunity by declaring themselves to be above the law.

That's where impact litigation comes in. Rather than trying to get 20,000,000 or so voters to scare the pants off of elected representatives and force them to do what's right for the people they represent (rather than the powerful interests by whom they've been captured), an impact litigator asks a judge to find the conduct unconstitutional, and thus illegal. At the stroke of a pen, a bad law can be killed in its tracks.

Impact litigation can be costly. Top lawyers don't come cheap, and the government has the power to drag out legal action for years, trying to bankrupt its opposition.

But impact litigation can win victories that simply can't be won in any other way. In areas where rallies, phone calls, letter-writing and logic hold no sway, a single, well-placed legal action can move mountains.

You'll have seen that the European Court of Human Rights is forcing the UK government to reply to the case that we brought over GCHQ's warrantless, lawless, mass-scale Internet spying. With this court action, we have to chance to cut through all the self-serving secrecy and scare-stories about terrorist bogeymen, and straight to the heart of the matter: the right of the law-abiding people of all nations to go about their daily lives unmolested, unsurveilled, undocumented and free.

That's where you come in. Supporting a full-time legal director is a major step for ORG, a new tactic in our arsenal, a way to make a real and lasting difference.

We can't do it without your support

Can you help ORG carry on using impact litigation by joining today?

The more people who join ORG in the next week, the more time the new Legal Director will be able to spend defending your digital rights in the courts.

Lots of people have already joined ORG this month already so just 60 (Update - 32) new supporters would take the Legal Director would make the post full-time.

0 new supporters = 4 days a week
60 32 new supporters = 5 days a week

Can you join Open Rights Group today?

Many thanks,

Cory Doctorow


Cory Doctorow
Co-founder and Advisory Council Member
Open Rights Group


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