Press releases

Press releases

Open Rights Group response to the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill

Executive Director, Jim Killock said:

“Despite the Court of Justice of the European Union ruling that blanket data retention interferes with our right to privacy, the government is expanding the amount of personal information that companies are forced to keep. Rather than rushing through counter-terror legislation, as they rushed through DRIPA, politicians need to ask whether pervasive whole population profiling is justified.  Undoubtedly surveillance must be used to tackle the the threat of terrorism but it should be targeted and proportionate.”

On proposals to record IP addresses and port numbers, Killock added: 

"In expecting companies to spend millions on recording IP addresses, they are embedding DRIPA and RIPA, both of which are supposed to be reviewed in just over 12 months. They are also dealing with a problem that exists because the mobile companies continue to rely on out of date technology that means hundreds of people use the same IP addresses. The government ought to be asking providers to invest in IPv6, rather than upgrading their current, limited technology, just for the purposes of further logging our movements. "

ORG has also pointed out that parts of the legislation aimed at preventing extremism in educational and other institutions, “are so open-ended that they could easily lead to work-place surveillance, where employers would be obliged by guidelines to check their employees’ email and web history.”

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ISC report into Lee Rigby's murder is misleading

Reacting to today’s ISC report, the Open Rights Group said that their report into Lee Rigby's murder is misleading. Executive Director Jim Killock said:

“When the intelligence services are gathering data about every one of us but failing to act on intelligence about individuals, they need to get back to basics, and look at the way they conduct targeted investigations.

“The committee should not use the appalling murder of Fusilier Rigby as an excuse to justify the further surveillance and monitoring of the entire UK population. To pass the blame to internet companies is to use Fusilier Rigby’s murder to make cheap political points.

“The committee is particularly misleading when it implies that US companies do not co-operate, and it is quite extraordinary to demand that companies pro-actively monitor email content for suspicious material. Internet companies cannot and must not become an arm of the surveillance state.

“As the report admits, ‘lone wolf attacks’ are almost impossible to predict - and therefore difficult to prevent. The security services should focus their efforts on the targeted surveillance of individuals like Michael Adebolajo rather than continuing to monitor every citizen in the UK. 

“Mass surveillance erodes the basic trust between citizen and state by treating us all as suspects. If the government keeps finding new ways to justify indiscriminate whole population trawls, it will be fair to say that we have lost our liberty and the terrorists have won.”


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Tech companies must come clean about their role in enabling blanket surveillance

Open Rights Group has responded to a report by Channel 4 News that Cable & Wireless allowed GCHQ to scoop up the private communications of millions of people around the world.

Executive Director Jim Killock said: 

"Tech companies are hiding their role in enabling blanket collection. It's time for them to come clean and tell us how they work with the security services and how much of our data they have shared.  UK warrants are simply not designed to allow everyone's data to be collected, all of the time. They are meant to permit targeted collection."

He added: 

"We are being denied a democratic debate. Parliament needs to decide on the limits of the law through a full debate on our broken surveillance regime.”


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ORG calls for political parties to state their position on surveillance

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 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.

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ORG response to extremist sites being blocked by ISP web filters

Open Rights Group has responded to the announcement that ISPs will add extremist websites to filters designed to protect children from seeing adult content. Jim Killock, Executive Director, Open Rights Group said:

"We need transparency whenever political content is blocked even when we are talking about websites that espouse extremist views. The government must be clear about what sites they think should be blocked, why they are blocking them and whether there will be redress for site owners who believe that their website has been blocked incorrectly."

He added:

"Given the low uptake of filters, it is difficult to see how effective the government’s approach will be when it comes to preventing young people from seeing material they have deemed inappropriate. Anyone with an interest in extremist views can surely find ways of circumventing child friendly filters.

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Open Rights Group: RIPA not fit for purpose

Further evidence that the Regulatory of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) is being used to violate the rights of UK citizens was exposed today. Documents released by human rights organisation, Reprieve  show that GCHQ and MI5 staff were told they could target lawyers’ communications. This undermines legal privilege that ensures communications between lawyers and their clients are confidential. 

The news that legal privilege is being violated comes weeks after it was revealed the Met police have used RIPA to circumvent journalistic privilege that protects journalists’ sources. 

Open Rights Group’s Legal Director, Elizabeth Knight said:

‘We already know that RIPA allows the security services to intercept all ‘external’ communications, breaching our right to privacy. By undermining journalistic and legal privilege, RIPA also threatens our rights to free speech and a fair trial. The government cannot keep defending these abuses. We need urgent reform of this broken law now. This disclosure demonstrates the need to introduce judicial authorisation.’ 

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Open Rights Group response to GCHQ Director's claim that tech companies are aiding terrorists

Open Rights Group has responded to an FT comment piece by the Director of GCHQ, Robert Hannigan, in which he calls for “greater co-operation from technology companies', who are in his words, “the command and control networks of choice” for terrorists.

Executive Director Jim Killock said:

“Robert Hannigan's comments are divisive and offensive. If tech companies are becoming more resistant to GCHQ's demands for data, it is because they realise that their customers' trust has been undermined by the Snowden revelations. It should be down to judges, not GCHQ nor tech companies, to decide when our personal data is handed over to the intelligence services. If Hannigan wants a 'mature debate' about privacy, he should start by addressing GCHQ's apparent habit of gathering the entire British population's data rather than targeting their activities towards criminals.”

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Judgment recognises Open Rights Group's intervention in landmark website blocking case

Open Rights Group’s (ORG) intervention had a significant impact on a landmark case about internet trade mark infringement that was handed down today by the High Court in London. 

Although the court held that it had jurisdiction to order injunctions directly against intermediary Internet Service Providers (ISPs) so that websites selling counterfeit goods can be blocked to subscribers, Mr Justice Arnold adopted the key ORG submission that such orders should always contain safeguards against abuse.  He also adopted ORG’s proposal for such safeguards.

In particular the judge:

  • accepted ORG’s submission that the orders should be required to have safeguards against abuse, and that this was a requirement which had been missed by the other parties (para. 191);

  • adopted ORG’s concrete proposals about the information to be included on landing pages and “sunset clauses” as safeguards against abuse (paras. 262 to 265); and

  • thanked ORG for its “brief, moderate and helpful” written submissions, which were “sensibly” not opposed by the other parties (para. 7).

ORG’s Legal Director Elizabeth Knight said:

“Whilst we are disappointed that the Court decided it had jurisdiction to grant these blocking orders, we are very pleased that that the judge took account of ORG’s intervention and recognised our concerns by ensuring that safeguards against abuse were included in the judgment, including landing page information and sunset clauses.”

David Allen Green, lawyer at Preiskel & Co LLP, who acted for ORG pro bono said:
“ORG is not on the side of counterfeiters. But innocent internet users can end up being affected by these orders. The court should be mindful of how these orders can impact on third parties. Had it not been for ORG’s submission, various points may well not have been included in today’s judgment.  We are grateful to the High Court for allowing our intervention and in particular, recognising that the test to be applied by the court includes the requirement of there being safeguards against abuse. We hope that this intervention will go some way to help ensure that future claimants cannot use blocking orders to restrict legitimate activity or free speech.”

In his judgment, Mr Justice Arnold ruled that BSkyB, BT, EE, TalkTalk and VirginMedia should block a number of websites that have been using the trade marks of Cartier International and related companies for counterfeiting activity. 

ORG is campaigning for more transparency around websites blocked for legal reasons through its Error 451 project. ORG is calling for ISPs to show an error 451 message when material has been blocked by a court order and to provide more information to the public. 


The case was heard by Mr Justice Arnold at the High Court of Justice, Chancery Division. ORG's submissions were written by David Allen Green with the assistance of Elizabeth Knight and Greg Callus. 

Submissions made by ORG


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ORG responds to calls by National Crime Agency for greater surveillance powers

Open Rights Group has responded to comments by Keith Bristow, director general of the National Crime Agency, which called for greater surveillance powers.

Executive Director Jim Killock said:

‘Open Rights Group welcomes any public debate about the surveillance of our personal communications by the police and intelligence services but so far the government seems intent on simply increasing its powers to allow unchecked whole population profiling. To tackle terrorism and serious crime, we need need targeted surveillance that is authorised by judges not politicians, as well as proper democratic oversight to ensure that powers are not abused.’

Open Rights Group is challenging the government’s surveillance practices before the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) as one of the applicants in the ‘Privacy not Prism’ claim.  We are also involved in a legal challenge to the new Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014(DRIPA). More information is available here:

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ORG responds to Conservative's UK Bill of Rights proposal

Open Rights Group has responded to proposals for a UK Bill of Rights, published today by lawyer and journalist David Allen Green on his blog here:

Executive Director of Open Rights Group,  Jim Killock said:

“This will make it very convenient for the government to carry on with mass surveillance and ignore future legal decisions limiting GCHQ’s whole population profiling. It is clear is that this government is determined to reduce the human rights protections available to ordinary people in order to avoid facing limitations on its own powers. But it is precisely these limitations that allow democracies to hold governments to account.”

The proposals could impact upon the Privacy not Prism legal challenge that ORG and other applicants have launched with the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) by making it discretionary for the government to abide by any decision that the court makes.

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