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Supporter Newsletter

September 25, 2015 | Ruth Coustick-Deal

Supporter Newsletter: September 2015

This month we've been preparing for the release of the Investigatory Powers Bill, responding to government reviews & speaking at conferences. We're not the only ones on it though, with MI5 giving their first ever live interview. However, this Bill is an opportunity for us to achieve a surveillance law that is transparent and proportionate. Help us campaign to make it happen!

MI5's first live interview

Last week was the first time someone from MI5 has given a live public interview. Speaking to Radio 4, the Director General of MI5, Andrew Parker, took this unusual step to call for a "modern and transparent" surveillance law, warned of terrorist attacks, and complained about how encryption was stopping them accessing the communications of people they believed to be terrorists.

Parker made the comments ahead of the publication of the draft Intelligence Powers Bill this autumn. A joint committee of MPs and peers will scrutinise the Bill over the winter, then MPs will start voting on it next spring.

ORG has been calling for a new law that will make sure that surveillance is necessary and proportionate. This is an opportunity for us to achieve that. However, we need to make sure that this new Bill does not instead increase the state’s surveillance powers - by for example increasing the scope of data that ISPs retain about us.

We are campaigning for an end to collect-it-all surveillance. We want surveillance to be targeted to those suspected of serious crime instead of storing everyone's data, all the time. We're also pushing for judicial authorisation instead of the ministerial sign-offs on warrants that we have at the moment.

Can you help us with our lobbying, campaigning, research and press work in the next few months? Join ORG for £5 a month to support our fight for digital freedoms.

ORG at Labour and Conservative Party Conferences

We will be holding events at both the Labour and Conservative Party Conferences. In Brighton on Tuesday 29th Septemberm Campaign Director of Don’t Spy On Us, Mike Harris will be talking about the upcoming Investigatory Powers Bill which is set to extend surveillance powers even further.

In Manchester on Monday 5th October, our Executive Director Jim Killock will be also be talking about the IPB and how we can stop it. Both events will include an interactive campaign workshop. They are completely free and open to the public!

Prison for file-sharers

The IPO ran a consultation this summer on proposals to increase the maximum prison sentence for criminal online copyright infringement to ten years.

They were aiming to match sanctions for online copyright infringement with physical copyright infringement —regardless of the platform used. While we agreed with their logic, in fact the proposals to risked punishing users who share links and files online more harshly than ordinary, physical theft.

We asked you to complete the consultation using our online tool, and over 1000 supporters responded!

Following this incredible response our Director Jim Killock was invited to meet with the IPO to further lay out our concerns. They have also promised to keep us informed of their decision-making, and we’ll keep you up to date with this campaign.

Do the Government reviews hold up?

Open Rights Group is a member of the Don’t Spy on Us coalition, which campaigns against the mass surveillance exposed by Edward Snowden. Since the launch of the DSOU campaign, the Government announced a series of major inquiries, in response to the public and civil society’s demand for greater transparency. These 3 reviews were carried out by the Intelligence and Security Committee, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation and the Royal United Services Institute.

DSOU has now published a report that compares these inquiries’ findings against the six DSOU principles: No surveillance without suspicion, transparent laws, not secret laws, judical not political authorisation, effective democratic oversight, the right to redress and a secure Internet for all.

Our report aims to help Parliamentarians assess whether the coming draft Investigatory Powers Bill, addresses the inquiries’ recommendations. It will be published next Tuesday.

Businesses support ORG

ORG has opened up its membership to businesses that support our aims and values. We are launching this new scheme today with Andrews &Arnold, Grit Digital and Valacato Hosting, and also Bytemark who have long-terme provided us with our web servers.

The focus of ORG’s work will always be the digital rights of individuals. But many businesses also benefit from our campaigns for fair laws, transparency and an open Internet. With their financial support, our campaigns can have even more of an impact. Getting the business perspective on Government policies and and technical developments will also help us to have more informed positions and responses.

Only businesses that support digital rights will be able to become ORG Corporate Supporters and we will not promote their products. But we will listen to their concerns and encourage them to get involved in our campaigns.

If your business or organisation is interested in joining ORG, please email for more information.

Local Groups Update

This month supporters in London and Birmingham organised fantastic meet ups. On Thursday 3rd September ORG Birmingham talked about the Snoopers’ Charter and how to win the argument against surveillance. In London on Monday 21st September, our group held Lightning Talks, a series of short talks from members on the theme of ‘Campaigning and Activism’.

We encourage you to find your local group or even set a new one up!

ORG out and about

ORG Brighton: Take Action Against Surveillance (Talk & Workshop) 29 September 7pm.
With the Campaign Director of Don’t Spy On Us, Mike Harris.
Ground Floor Auditorium
68 Middle Street, Brighton, BN1 1LA, Brighton

ORG Manchester: Episode V: The Snoopers' Charter Strikes Back! 5October 7pm
Hear Open Rights Group's Executive Director, Jim Killock on stopping the Snoopers' Charter and learn how to campaign against it in a workshop.
36-40 Edge Street, Manchester

ORG Bristol: Lets stop the Snoopers' Charter 11 October 3pm
Learn how to lobby your MP like a seasoned activist! Supporters in Bristol are running an interactive workshop using a special ORG campaign briefing on how to fight against the Snoopers' Charter.
Bristol Games Hub, 77 Stokes Croft BS1 3RD, Bristol

ORG London: Local politics 101, 19 October 7pm
What have you always wanted to know about local politics? What is the difference between a councillor and an MP? Find out these answers and more.
Newspeak House
133-135 Bethnal Green Road, E2 7DG, London

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August 03, 2015 | Ruth Coustick-Deal

Supporter Newsletter: July 2015

It’s been a great month at Open Rights Group. Our intervention in the court case on DRIPA succeeded; we celebrated one year of Blocked; and we challenged threats to what you can photograph.

DRIPA Court case success

Last year the Government rushed through the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIPA). We knew it was a deliberate attempt to ignore the EU courts who had struck down the Data Retention Directive, and we promised you we would fight against it.

And now, after taking legal action, the High Court has ruled that DRIPA was indeed inconsistent with EU law.

The successful judicial review was brought by Liberty, represented by David Davis MP and Tom Watson MP, with ORG and Privacy International acting as intervenors together.

We argued that DRIPA was incompatible with the Court of Justice of the EU decision to strike down the Data Retention Directive. The Justices agreed and ruled that parts of DRIPA are unlawful. You can read more of about the judgment here.

Thanks again to all our supporters who made this happen!

One year of censorship monitoring

It’s been a year since we launched, a tool that lets people check whether websites are incorrectly blocked by filters. At its launch, we showed that around 1 in 5 sites were blocked by some kind of parental control. We knew that many of these websites posed no harm to children. Over the last year, we’ve heard from businesses, bloggers and charities whose sites have been censored. Many had no idea that this was happening and without they wouldn’t have been able to find out or get their websites unblocked.

The Government has also now acknowledged that overblocking is a problem, but they and the ISPs are underestimating how many sites are being affected. Filters don’t always work and relying on them can lull parents into a false sense of security.

Last week, the Prime Minister announced that he wanted to force porn sites to use age verification or to be shut down. But what the Blocked project has shown is that there are no simple tech solutions to social problems.

Freedom of Panorama defended

This month we asked you to help us protect outdoor photography and the ‘Freedom of Panorama’.

Freedom of Panorama is an exception to copyright, which means a work in a public place, (like a sculpture or a building) is allowed to be painted or photographed without permission.

The Julia Reda copyright report, which laid forward EU Parliment's proposals for copyright reform, included proposals for sharing the UK's Freedom of Panorama with EU states. However, some MEPs proposed an alternate version with an amendment that instead advocated removing our existing protections.

We were delighted that the European Parliament adopted Julia Reda’s copyright report – with the controversial proposal to restrict Freedom of Panorama taken out. Lots of you took action with us and sent your MEPs letters. We know that the strong public opinion made a huge difference on this, so thank you!

Encryption in danger in the UK

Since the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January, David Cameron and his Government have stated several times that authorities should be able to access encrypted data, so that there is no “safe space” for terrorists.

Even though the Government has yet to specify how it intends to circumvent encryption, Cameron's latest declaration at the end of June, sparked a huge outcry, with media reports that the Government was proposing to ban popular applications, such as Whatsapp.

Given that we need encryption for our everyday online transactions, we don't think the Government will 'ban' encrypted products. But other measures such as making backdoors mandatory would put the Government at odds with the position of companies, technology experts, as well as many Internet users. Last month, a United Nations' Special Rapporteur report stated that in the digital age, privacy and freedom of expression depend on encryption.

We will continue to campaign to protect encryption, and defend our ability to communicate privately and securely.

Caspar Bowden

We were saddened by the passing of respected privacy advocate and ORG Advisory Council member Caspar Bowden earlier this month.  Among his many contributions to ORG were a series of lectures he gave prior to the PRISM revelations, where he pointed out the holes in US legislation that could allow bulk collection and access to US corporations’ data vaults. At the time, he was pretty much the only person in Europe making these points, cogently and loudly.

Here's our blog post on his valuable work over the years. You can contribute to the Caspar Bowden Foundation here.

Local Groups News

It’s been an exciting month of growth for our local groups. Supporters in Birmingham have launched their own community of ORG enthusiasts! They are currently working with Young Rewired State to promote digital rights at the 2015 Festival of Code in Birmingham. They are already making great progress. Read more about what they’ve been up to here:

You can see all the upcoming local group events in the sidebar.

Find out if there is a group near you:

Quick Fire News

Open Rights Group's Policy Report is back! Every week we produce a report on what's happening in digital rights politics across UK & Europe. You can subscribe to this policy report here.

Challenging the Copyright Police. The City of London Police's Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) has been the subject of controversy for the last few years. In particular, they have been making take-down requests without a court order. We believe PIPCU need to strengthen their commitments to due process, independence and transparency. We have been in correspondence with Commander Head of PIPCU, stressing these concerns since they were founded. You can read our series of letters here.

ORG out and about

ORG-London: Expanding Blocked & Challenging Censorship Internationally Monday, August 10, 2015, 7pm - 9pm
Article 19 and ORG have teamed up to monitor censorship in Tunisia, Kenya and Bangladesh. This talk discusses the technology, the obstacles, and the different approaches we developed for each country.
Nomad Studio on 3rd Floor
119 Farringdon Road, London

ORG-Sheffield: Stop the Snoopers' Charter bouncing back!
Wednesday, August 26, 2015, 7pm - 9pm,
ORG Sheffield is running a free workshop where you can learn more about current surveillance laws and how you can win the argument against extending the powers of the police and GCHQ. Rutland Arms
Brown Street,
Sheffield - S1 2BS



ings Dock, Liverpool Waterfront, Merseyside L3 4FP - See more at:

Kings Dock, Liverpool Waterfront, Merseyside L3 4FP - See more at:

ACC Liverpool

Kings Dock, Liverpool Waterfront, Merseyside L3 4FP - See more at:

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June 22, 2015 | Ruth Coustick-Deal

Supporter Newsletter: June 2015

This month we celebrate the positive news that independent reviews of surveillance legislation have come out criticising the plans for a revival of the Snoopers' Charter. We're also hosting launch events for ORG Scotland this month, and share a victory for the Save the Link campaign.

“It is time for a clean slate”

We have good news in the fight against mass surveillance!

In the Anderson report published last week, the UK's Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation described the UK surveillance laws as, “fragmented, obscure, under constant challenge... undemocratic, unnecessary” and declared "it is time for a clean slate." David Anderson QC, was tasked with reviewing surveillance law as a requirement of the DRIPA. Unsurprisingly he does not condemn mass surveillance in principle, but the report calls for a radical overhaul of how surveillance is regulated, and that's a great start. His key points were:

Legal reform: A comprehensive and comprehensible new law is needed.
Warrants: Warrants should be signed off by judicial commissioners.
Snoopers' Charter: The Government hasn't made a strong enough case for why this is needed.

Anderson's review and the Intelligence and Security Committee's Privacy and Security report wouldn’t have happened were it not for Edward Snowden's revelations, and persistent campaigning from the digital rights community.

Support our campaign against the Snoopers’ Charter here.

ORG Scotland launch

This week we are launching ORG Scotland with a series of free events across Scotland. Our Press Launch at the Scottish Parliament (Holyrood) on 25th June, will be attended by Patrick Harvie MSP and Willie Rennie MSP.

We have also organised a series of events across Scotland in Aberdeen (26th), Dundee (27th) and Glasgow (29th) and Edinburgh on the 29th. It's an exciting time to be fighting for digital rights in Scotland and we want you to be a part of it.

There will be talks from Wendy Grossman (Journalist, Activist and Open Rights Group Advisory Council member). These events will give you the opportunity to meet Pol Clementsmith, our newly hired Scotland Officer, who will be heading up ORG's campaigning in Scotland. Come listen to the talks, and tell Pol what you think we should be working on.

Release the Sheinwald report

With the passing in July 2014 of the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIPA), Prime Minister David Cameron announced the nomination of a Special Envoy on intelligence and law enforcement data sharing.

Two months later, he chose Sir Nigel Sheinwald, a senior diplomat who has represented the United Kingdom in Brussels as well as Washington, to fill this role. His mission was to examine what can be done, in legal terms, to facilitate the access to customers' metadata detained by companies overseas, for instance in the US.

The report supposedly concludes that negotiating an international data sharing treaty would be the best option.
However, the Guardian revealed in June 2015 that this report would not be made public on the grounds that it contains sensitive details on company's operations.

This secrecy is just another way to protect the Snoopers' Charter, as this Bill also aims at accessing metadata stored by companies. Jim Killock, Executive Director was quoted by the Guardian as stating that,

“A new international treaty is the right approach to cross-border requests for data by law enforcement agencies. This approach undermines Theresa May’s claim that there is a need for a new Snooper’s Charter when there is a simple, transparent and workable solution.”

Save the Link victory

The Save the Link coalition campaigns to stop proposals that would limit our right to link freely online.

This week we celebrated a key success in the European Union Parliament. The Legal Affairs committee voted to pass a pro-Internet copyright report, updating the rules on how we share and collaborate online. A key debate was over a system nicknamed the ‘link tax’, where aggregators and search engines - Google News, Reddit, etc. - have to pay to use snippets as small as a single word to link to news articles. These systems are already in place in Germany and Spain.

The implementation of these rules has not been successful, with most publishers in Germany choosing to waive the fee in favour of being listed in search results. That’s why we were delighted when EU Parliamentarians, under pressure from over 65,000 people at, rejected an amendment calling for expanding the ‘link tax’ to the rest of the EU.A move like this would have negatively affected Internet users across the globe, threatening freedom of expression, and setting a dangerous precedent.

Find out more about why this is a bad idea, and what the next steps are here.

International Open Data conference

Javier Ruiz, Policy Director, ran a workshop on privacy at the International Open Data Conference in Ottawa, Canada for government and civil society. The session explored how being open-by-default should not threaten the privacy and rights of citizens.

The workshop gave an introduction to basic concepts around privacy and open data to encourage critical thinking when considering releasing personal information. The session managed both to get participants to discuss in quite detail these issues, and also to flag privacy concerns more widely around the conference.

Quick Fire News

Challenging DRIPA in Court
Last year, ORG and Privacy International made submissions to a legal challenge to the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIPA) brought by Liberty on behalf of MPs David Davis and Tom Watson.

Our submission pointed out that DRIPA isn’t compliant with European laws. This was raised at a hearing at the High Court on 4th and 5th June, which also saw Liberty argue that DRIPA is incompatible with the Human Rights Act.

ORG Website changes
We’ve just revamped the ORG web site. Our Campaigns, Get Involved and Local Groups sites have had a complete overhaul and we’re really proud of how they look now. Please take a look and take action!

Labour Campaign for Human Rights
The Labour Campaign for Human Rights is building a grassroots movement within the Labour Party to oppose the Snoopers' Charter and curb mass surveillance. We would like to call on all ORG members who are also members of the Labour party to come forward and help LCHR pass motions opposing the Snoopers' Charter in their Constituency Labour Party. Five groups have already passed motions and LCHR would like to get more passed in the coming weeks. If you can help, please contact

Open Rights Group's Policy Report is back! Every week we produce a report on what's happening in digital rights politics across UK & Europe. You can subscribe to this newsletter here.

ORG out and about

Help us launch ORG Scotland
Open Rights Group is launching 'ORG Scotland' with our new Scotland Officer, Pol Clementsmith! We have organised a series of events in Scotland:

Aberdeen: Friday, June 26, 2015
6:15 PM to 8:30 PM
Meston Building, University of Aberdeen, King's College, AB24 3FX

Dundee: Saturday, June 27, 2015
2:30 PM to 5:00 PM
Dundee Contemporary Arts
152 Nethergate, Dundee

Glasgow: Sunday, June 28, 2015
2:30 PM to 5:00 PM
The Old Hairdresser's (opposite stereo) Renfield Lane, Glasgow, G2 6PH, Glasgow

Edinburgh: Monday, June 29, 2015
6:45 PM to 9:00 PM

Argyle House, 3 Lady Lawson Street Edinburgh, EH3 9DR, Edinburgh

Thank you

Everyone who takes part in our actions, attends an event, volunteers, or becomes a member, is helping politicians remember that we are not giving up on the right to privacy.

Thank you for supporting our work.

Best wishes,

ings Dock, Liverpool Waterfront, Merseyside L3 4FP - See more at:

Kings Dock, Liverpool Waterfront, Merseyside L3 4FP - See more at:

ACC Liverpool

Kings Dock, Liverpool Waterfront, Merseyside L3 4FP - See more at:


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April 30, 2015 | Ruth Coustick-Deal

Supporter Newsletter: April 2015

It's impossible to miss that the General Election is only 1 week away, MPs have now become candidates again and come May 8th we'll have a new parliament and new government. We look at how our community has been raising awareness of digital rights across Britain.


It's not over yet, the election campaign is still going strong with all the parties out hunting for votes. We want to help you have your say in the results! Over the last few weeks we’ve been working with our supporters to get digital rights debated and to make sure you can be informed as possible about your vote.

1. The Great Mass Surveillance Survey

We have just launched our 2015 Election Candidates Mass Surveillance Survey!

Election survey website screen shot
All parliamentary candidates in Britain were asked the question: "How would you reform surveillance law, oversight and practice to respect the rights of law-abiding people?"

You can visit and enter your postcode to see what answers your local candidate gave.

If your local politicians haven't replied, we've also gone through the mainfestos on your behalf and picked out out the most relevant parts on surveillance so you can see how each party stands on the issue.

2. Our local groups making a difference

Brighton husting crowd

Over the last few weeks our groups in Manchester, Bristol and Brighton have run hustings for their local candidates. These are public events where you can ask your parliamentary candidates about the things you care about.

Candidates from every party
told us where they stood on surveillance.Their considered answers demonstrated the value of speaking not only to your candidates, but your new MP. Every single debate was packed and our supporters asked great questions.

It was brilliant to see our groups organise these by teaming up with other local activists. In Manchester, Bristol and Brighton we worked with groups including 38 Degrees, Amnesty and Christian Aid. Together weve ensured that civil liberties are not left out of the equation.

3. Ask your question

It's worth turning up and asking a question at a hustings near you, even if you think the result in your area is decided. Seats that have traditionally been safe are now finding themselves in a competition, and we're going to have an incredibly close election.

Asking a question about civil liberties at a local event is a powerful way of reminding candidates that their consituencies care about their rights. If we can persuade candidates about surveillance now, it'll it easier to win privacy campaigns in the future.

You can find out if there's a hustings near you using

4. Talk to me about surveillance

ORG's talk to your candidate poster Thanks to @SamH for use of his photo

Thanks to our recent membership growth we've been able to produce lots of materials for our supporters.

We have sent out ORG's Election Guide for Supporters and a poster for you to display to encourage candidates standing for MP to knock on your door and talk to you about surveillance. The guide includes questions you can ask, and the responses that you might get. If you didn't get a pack and would like to, please just reply to this email. You can also join ORG here.

5. Election training

London election training

In our London group we ran a General Election Training evening on how to make an impact this election, giving you the knowledge needed to be confident and effective activists this election.

We covered how to explain surveillance issues to other people, whether they are family members or the Prime Minister; on your own doorstep or at a public debate in the town hall.

Our community wrote 15 letters to local newspapers using our templates which they sent off on the evening.

Even if you couldn't make any of these events, you can still participate in any of these actions - there's plenty of time left to make a difference!

Thank you

Everyone who takes part in our actions, puts up a poster in the window, attends an event or becomes a member, is helping politicians remember that the right to privacy is not something we are giving up on.

Our community is doing an amazing job to work together and make digital rights into a big issue for candidates this election.

Thank you for supporting our work.

Quick Fire News

On Saturday 14th March, Open Rights Group ran workshops with young women about online privacy at Being Watched, an all day conference for young women, aimed at helping them to regain control in the online world. During our four sessions, we spoke to teenage girls about how people lose control of information about themselves online. Within five minutes of the opening we were getting questions about whether Facebook could read their messages, and it only got more interesting. You can read more about the day on our blog.

In new Gods we trust
Executive Director Jim Killock gave an in-depth profile interview to Open Democracy, discussing the full breadth of digital rights issues we work on including: bulk collection, state bureaucracies, trust and 'the pre-crime era'.

Open Rights Group have filed amicus curiae briefs with the Hungarian Constitutional Court, alongside Privacy International and a group of internationally acknowledged experts.
The case has been brought by the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU), in an attempt to force the Hungarian Constitutional Court to repeal their Electronic Communications Act. Our submissions focus on the importance of EU law and why the Hungarian law does not comply with it.

We have joined a network of over 30 organizations from 12 countries to “Save The Link”. The international campaign has been launched in response to a major copyright review in the EU which includesamendments to the European Union’s Copyright Directive that would fundamentally undermine the right to link. The use of hyperlinks themselves, a fundamental part of how we all use the web, could become copyright infringement. Sign the petition to save the link here.

ORG out and about

Shape the future of ORG London 11 May, 19.00
We will be running an interactive feedback, brain storming and planning session to talk about what you want from the group.
119 Farringdon Road

Internet Censorship: The Collapse of Russia's Democratic Dream ORG London meetup, 18 May, 7.30pm
An introduction to Internet censorship in Russia, from researcher Gregory Asmolov
119 Farringdon Road

[Read more]

March 06, 2015 | Ruth Coustick-Deal

Supporter Newsletter: March 2015

This month we launched our Scotland Office, a new local group in Oxford and #digitalrightsmatter, a day of fundraising and awareness for our campaigning work.

Digital Rights Matter

Thanks for supporting our work and taking part in our campaigns.

2015 has had some amazing moments for digital rights already. We took down the threat of a sneaked in Snoopers’ Charter and we’ve ensured that national ID cards for Scotland won’t be happening any time soon. We’ve also had some fantastic membership growth, which means big things happening at the election:

1. ORG’s ‘civil liberties’ hustings will be going ahead in early to mid April in: Brighton, Bristol, Cardiff and Manchester. We’ve now got other local groups on board including 38 Degrees and Friends of the Earth.

2. ORG are excited to be working with Democracy Club to improve how candidates, campaigners and voters communicate! We're building a website that aggregates questions from organisations and puts them to candidates.

We are almost at 300 new supporters this year! We’re so close to our goal, and on Thursday 16th March we're giving our membership one big boost: holding #digitalrightsmatter day. We’re asking people to join ORG on one day for that last push to 300 new members.

But for everoyne to take notice, we need to all share it together at once. Celebrate your support of ORG's work and raise awareness of our one day fundraiser for our campaign work by signing up to our Thunderclap and joining ORG.

More on how to show your support.

Launching ORG Scotland 

Over the last year we’ve been working away on raising funds to found ORG Scotland. We listened to our supporters who saw that there were unique threats to their rights in Scotland, and that no one was campaigning on them. We’re now excited to announce that we will are hiring a new member of staff, who will be based in Edinburgh.

We’ve also launched our first campaign in Scotland. We were concerned that planned changes to the Scottish NHS database would make the government able to turn it into a national register of Scottish citizens

Hundreds of people used our tool to respond to the consultation on these proposals. We’ve held several public events, got lots of media coverage, and our Director Jim Killock has been in Edinburgh speaking to MSPs this week. Our concerns are now being raised in Holyrood. It shows exactly what ORG is here for – spreading a message and bringing about change on an issue that matters to everyone but few were talking about.

This is why joining matters. Your membership of ORG has made a huge difference, so thank you so much for your commitment to digital rights.

Privacy not Prism case update

On February 6th the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) found that the practice of secret intelligence sharing between the UK and the US was unlawful (prior to December 2014) because the policies governing these arrangements were secret. Ironically they became legal after December because the Snowden revelations ensured they were no longer secret! These policies were made public during a case brought by Privacy International, Bytes for All, Liberty, and Amnesty International.

Now that this ruling has been made it also means our Privacy not Prism case which challenges intelligence sharing and GCHQ’s TEMPORA programme, will also be going forward. It was pending at the European Court of Human Rights, awaiting the outcome of an IPT case.

It is the first time the IPT has found the UK’s intelligence services to be in breach of human rights law. However, the IPT has not gone far enough. GCHQ’s own TEMPORA programme of mass interception is clearly both unlawful and disproportionate. We hope the European Court of Human Rights will go further and find that mass surveillance breaches our human right to privacy.

Data protection leaks

Appalling revelations that our data protection rights are being completely undermined in Europe came out this week.

The EU Data Protection Directive has been unravelled by business and security lobbying, leaked documents show. In 2012 we campaigned for the legislation to modernise our data protection rights, something which was urgently needed as more big digital companies gather masses of information on our lives.

However when European Parliament's version of the Directive reached the Council (made up of heads of state) the states attacked key protections like:the right to be asked for consent, the right to know how your data is used and the right to object to your data being used. For example, national governments say that a business which has permission to use your data should be allowed to pass that on again to another company, without telling you.

The legislation now puts our personal data at risk where it was intended to secure it.Joe MacNamee of EDRi said the regulation is now at risk of becoming “an empty shell” and have provided a full analysis of the leaked text. We must campaign to ensure that it's Parliament's version of the new rules that gets passed.

Local Groups news

We are very happy to announce that a new Local Group has been formed by our fantastic supporters in Oxford! They will holding a launch event in late March with ORG Executive Director Jim Killock - Reserve Your Place. Get event updates on MeetUp and chat with people near you on their Mailing List.

If you are not in one of our 4 main hustings locations (Brighton, Bristol, Cardiff and Manchester) you can still help us, as we are encouraging supporters to ask questions about ORG issues (copyright, censorship and mass surveillance) at other local hustings. You can start seeing who is participating by discussing it on one of our Local Mailing Lists.

Quick Fire News

CITIZENFOUR by Laura Poitras brings home the scale of the surveillance undertaken by the intelligence agencies behind our backs. We were delighted that its achievement as was one of the most remarkable scoops in the history of film-making was recognised by the Oscar for 'best documentary'. You can read why the Oscar matters here.

The Intelligence and Security Committee (who examine issues related to the security agencies and governmental intelligence activities) are expected to release their report, the 2014 Privacy and Security Inquiry on 12th March. This report could be influential on future surveillance reform. Although we and many other NGOs and civil society groups gave submissions to the inquiry, and were expert witnesses during the early stages it may be used in election campaigning to propose furthering the surveillance. We’ll be keeping an eye on it and sending more information on what it contains and means for us all next week.

ORG out and about

The Surveillance Society, Scottish Public Law group, Thursday 5 March: 5.45
Elizabeth Knight, Legal Director, will be speaking on the question Do we live in a surveillance society?
University of Strathclyde.

Stop TTIP! How Greens and campaigners are working to stop the EU-US trade deal, Saturday 7th March 4.00 - 5.15
ORG Campaigner Ed Paton Williams will be speaking at the Green Party conference, session open to the public.
ACC Building, King's Dock, Liverpool, Merseyside.

Kings Dock, Liverpool Waterfront, Merseyside L3 4FP - See more at:
Kings Dock, Liverpool Waterfront, Merseyside L3 4FP - See more at:
ACC Liverpool
Kings Dock, Liverpool Waterfront, Merseyside L3 4FP - See more at:

Being Watched,Saturday 14th March 4, all day.
Lydia is leading a workshop for young women on who is making the decisions about the privacy settings on Facebook and social media.
Birley Building, Manchester Metropolitan University, Bonsall Street, Manchester, M15 6GX

ORG-Oxford Monday 9th March 6.00
This will be the first meeting of an Oxford group and is open to anyone interested in finding out more about the digital issues that affect our future, hosted by Jim Killock.

Mass Surveillance, Liberty and Activism with ORG Director Jim Killock, Wednesday, March 25, 2015
7:15 -
Executive Director Jim Killock will give a talk followed by a Q&A with questions from the audience about mass surveillance, liberty and activism.
Quaker Meeting House

10 St James Street, Sheffield

Assemblies for Democracy,
28th March,London
11th April, Glasgow
18th April, Manchester
from 10am.
Assemblies for Democracy are a series of free events aiming to bring together diverse views about how we can develop democracy. There will be sessions on the emergence of surveillance & open space to propose your own talk.

Get Involved

As the parties puts surveillance on the agenda for the general election, it’s our job to stand up for your rights online. If you have a moment to spare can you help us by donating to support our work, becoming a member of ORG or signing up to our Thunderclap

[Read more]

January 23, 2015 | Ruth Coustick-Deal

Supporter Newsletter: January 2015

This month we respond to a series of threats to digital rights as Lords attempt to slip in the Snoopers' Charter as 18 pages of amendments and David Cameron proposes harming encryption.

Lords try to sneak in the Snoopers’ Charter

The Counter Terrorism and Security Bill is being debated on Monday, but suddenly it’s turned into a totally different beast. Four peers have decided to insert the Snoopers’ Charter into the law, as 18 pages of amendments.

The amendments are nearly identical in form to the draft Communications Data Bill, which was previously scrutinized by a parliamentary committee who concluded that it was inappropriate. All the problems with the Snoopers’ Charter - that its figures were “fanciful and misleading,” that it, “pays insufficient attention to the duty to respect the right to privacy,” are still there.

Laying 18 pages of amendments before the Lords to insert the Snoopers' Charter into an already complicated Bill is an abuse of our democratic system. The Lords cannot have time to properly consider the bill, and would deny the Commons the opportunity to consider the clauses as well.

You can stop this happening! Please

1. Write to a Lord (they don't have constituencies, so you have to pick one at random)

2. Ask them to debate #SnoopersCharter on Monday

3. Send them our briefing

Sky switch on censorship

Sky Broadband have just announced they will automatically apply‘under 13’ level web-filters to all customers, unless the account-holder opts out. They say: "It's better for people to make their own choice, but until they do, we believe this process to be the safest one.”

Choosing on your behalf to cut off access to huge amounts of the Internet, is not what the Government agreed with ISPs. Sky Broadband’s explanations about filters do not offer an informed choice - they mention none of their disadvantages or limitations.

By imposing filtering as a default, they are using sneaky nudge tactics, knowing that most people just take the defaults given to them. This may just be to increase their uptake as only 8% of new customers have taken them up till now,

Far from being perfect, web filters block sites nobody could object to, while failing to block others that are unquestionably adult in nature. They are also conflating sites "deemed unsuitable for under 13s," a broad and subjective category with "adult content". It includes legal content like resources on sexual health and drugs.

Are you a Sky customer? Please let us know how the filters affect you. We’d love to share your story.

You can find out what sites are blocked on Sky using our Blocked tool.

Is encryption at risk?

Last week David Cameron declared war on encryption. His statement that there shouldn't be communications the Government can't read was the latest in a series of rushed reactions to the atrocities in Paris. We believe that we must protect our rights and freedoms, not throw them away when they are attacked.

The idea that law enforcement and security services should always be able to read communications is an impossible goal.

Cameron is seeking to pressurise companies to put back doors into encryption software, but he will find a great deal of resistance. Companies are unlikely to sacrifice tools that make their products effective. The prospect of lowering privacy and security across the globe begins to look bizarre and we hope that he will provide a full explanation of these proposals.

Vote for digital rights

As the parties puts surveillance on the agenda for the general election, it’s our job to stand up for your rights online.

Right now we are putting together our election campaign plans to stop mass surveillance, and we need your help.

The Government are acting as though privacy is a lost concept, but in fact it’s something that people rely on every day. For many people it is vital to feel safe online, whether that's wanting to search medical terms in confidence or contact Samaritans, and that's why we're concerned by requests for even more powers for security services, but also increasing use of surveillance powers by public bodies, and private companies.

We're not just fighting for privacy, but for giving people control over their lives.

That’s why we're going to be launching our election campaign soon to raise awareness about what’s happening to our privacy. However, we need more support to make it happen.

Join today and help us protect fundamental rights like privacy and free speech.

Thank you for your support of digital rights!

Best wishes,

Quick Fire News

ORG has signed up to an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief in a Microsoft case prepared by lawyers for Digital Rights Ireland in the ‘Microsoft warrant case’.The case involves US law enforecement seeking access to Microsoft email data held in Ireland. You can read more about our involvement in the case here.

European Digital Rights at Risk
EDRi, the European Digital Rights group are the umbrella organization of which ORG and 32 other digital rights groups are members. They do an amazing job providing policy expertise, and monitoring on Europe to all of us. However, EDRi’s existence is at stake. This year their current funding ends, if you can please donate to ensure they don’t lose their capability to fight on our behalf in Europe.

Your Next MP
Can you help with a crowdfunding election project? MySociety have built a site that’s gathering data about who’s standing at the General Election. This is a brilliant tool and we hope to use it for our ‘where do your candidates stand on surveillance?’ website, but they need your help. Could you improve your candidates' details. You'll be making a better data source for everyone:

ORG out and about

Copyright4Creativity, 20-22 January
Policy Director, Javier Ruiz has been meeting MEPs and European Commissioners to talk about the future of copyright.

ORG London - bringing justice on drone strikes
Monday 16 February, 19.30
Jennifer Gibson who gave a brilliant talk on drone strikes at ORGCon will be expanding on that subject and explaining the work that she does with Reprieve.
The Castle Pub
34-35 Cowcross Street EC1M 6DB

Coding for Social Change: Friday 30 January, 13.00
Executive Director Jim Killock will be speaking at a free public event to discuss the ways in which digital technologies are transforming society.
1-5pm, Birt Acres Lecture Theatre, Cardiff University.

Surveillance and Citizenship: 18/19 June
Deadline for submission of proposals: 15 February
A two-day conference and workshop series on the implications of the Snowden revelations for policy, technology, activism and media.
Cardiff University

Digital Conversations @ British Library: A Web of Rights: Thursday 19 February 2015, 18:00 - 20:15
Jim Killock, will be speaking at a debate on how and in what ways the web has changed the rights of citizens for better or for worse.
The British Library (1st floor Staff Restaurant)
96 Euston Road, London

[Read more]

November 03, 2014 | Ruth Coustick-Deal

Supporter Newsletter: October 2014

This month we are celebrating three brilliant wins as we bring transparency to web blocking on several fronts and format shifting and parody came into law. Plus, an opportunity to get free tickets to ORGCon2014.

Free ORGCon2014 tickets & three big successes

There are lots of reasons to join ORG. You can read below about our amazing successes: legal interventions achieving protections for transparency and mistakes. We’ve raised money to take the Error 451 project forward and Parliament brought format shifting and parody into law!

But right now there’s one excellent bonus reason to give us your support: A free ticket for ORGCon2014 to see Cory Doctorow and others give inspirational talks.


ORGCon is our annual conference for the digital rights community and a  great opportunity to see some of the legends of digital rights speak. Plus we have have a plethora of expert presenters from across the broad range of online rights interests – journalists, businesses, hackers, academics politicians, lawyers, activists!

Take a look at some of the interesting sessions at ORGCon2014:

You can see all this for FREE if you join ORG today:

(Details on your free ticket are in your welcome email. Alternatively buy your ticket here.)

Success 1:
Error 451 project makes court orders public

We would like to say a big thank you to all those who donated in response to our request to help us obtain and transcribe court orders on blocked websites. We're delighted to say that thanks to you we exceeded our target, receiving over £1,590.

Elizabeth, our Legal Director, recently went to the High Court and was able to collect 35 blocking orders ready to be transcribed. We’re proud to be able to finally start work on the transcription and make this information public. The first 6 have now been put up on our Error 451 site:

However, there are many physical pages of legalese that needs to be written up and made transparent.  If you have some legal experince and the time to help us transcribe the orders we would be very grateful.  It’s a big task, but with a Wikipedia-style team of volunteers we can make web blocking open.

If you are able to offer some time please get in touch by emailing

Success 2:
Format shifting and parody legal at last

On 1 October 2014, new rules for personal copying, parody, and quotation came into force in the UK.

This was a major victory for ORG after seven years of campaigning for these reforms. A big thank you to everyone who helped make this happen!

The first new exception for ‘personal copying’ means you can now backup your music collection, or even format shift it, (eg. turning CDs into MP3s) so long as it’s for your personal use. Breaking DRM, the anti-copying technology often built into DVDs and other media, is still unlawful. However, the legislation does allow you to apply to the Secretary of State if you want to remove the Digital Rights Management (DRM) access controls.

The law also includes a parody exception, which means you can use copyright material in order to create a spoof, pastiche or parody.

It's a brilliant win which means that comedy and criticial pastiche are at last protected. You can read more details about the new law here:

Success 3:
ORG's safeguards accepted in website blocking case

ORG's intervention had a significant impact on a landmark case about internet trade mark infringement that was handed down 2 weeks ago by the High Court in London.

The court decided that it could orders ISPs (Internet Service Providers) to block specific websites selling fake goods.

However, Mr Justice Arnold adopted the key ORG submission that such orders should always contain safeguards against abuse.
He also adopted ORG’s proposals that information on the blocking should be included on landing pages and there should be “sunset clauses” as safeguards against abuse. He thanked ORG for its “brief, moderate and helpful” written submissions. We're very pleased to be taking on this kind of work, and making an important impact on web blocking transparency.

David Allen Green, lawyer at Preiskel & Co LLP, who acted for ORG pro bono said that "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.”

The case was covered in the Guardian and Bloomberg, and you can read more details about it in our blog

Quick Fire News

As part of the 2014 Privacy and Security Inquiry, the ISC (Intelligence and Security Commitee) called witnesses to give statements on Tuesday and Wednesday. Among the witnesses called was Jim Killock, ORG's Executive Director, who spoke about how security services are undermining security for all through introducing backdoors, and the need for stronger oversight.

ORG Co-founder and Advisory Council member Cory Doctorow gave talks to ORG's local groups in Sheffield and Manchester this month. The Manchester group hosted at Waterstones as part of the literary festival and had great attendance, with book signings and lots of questions. You can get involved with your local ORG Group and put on events like this.

ORG has applied to intervene in the case brought by MPs Tom Watson and David David against the Government on the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act. The Government rushed the Act through Parliament earlier this year.

On 4 October, twenty people got together for ORG's digital-rights hack-day at Mozilla's community space in Covent Garden. Find out what happened and how you can help take the projects we started further. 

ORG out and about

Freeing the Internet: How hard can it be? Thursday, November 6, 2014 6:30 PM
Join ORG Manchester and Open Data Manchester for a talk on the evolution of the internet from Wendy M. Grossman - an award-winning journalist wars between cyberspace and real life for 20 years
MadLab 36-40 Edge Street, Manchester

Practical Privacy Tools for Everyone; Wednesday, November 12, 2014, 7:00 PM
Bring your laptops, phones and other devices. ORG Sheffield will help you to install and understand tools you can use to maintain your privacy online.
Access Space Unit 1, AVEC Building, 3-7 Sidney Street, Sheffield S1 4RG, Sheffield

15th - 16th November,
10:00 AM -5:30 PM
ORG’s annual conference is a brilliant place to meet other ORG supporters and to hear from incredible speakers on digital rights topics.
15th: Franklin, Wilkins Building, King's College London, Waterloo 
16th: The Foundry, Oval 

Open Source and the Cloud for Business 18th November, 14:00
ORG supporters from Brighton are organising and attending an event on Open Source and the Cloud for businesses and the public sector.
Sussex County Cricket Club, Hove, BN3 3AN

Join ORG today!

Join today and help us do even more to fight to protect fundamental rights like privacy and free speech.

YOU are what makes our work possible. Without support from donations we wouldn't be able to do any of the above work.

Thank you for your support of digital rights!

[Read more]

September 12, 2014 | Ruth Coustick-Deal

Supporter Newsletter: September 2014

This month we launched ticket sales for ORGCon and are delighted that Cory Doctorow will be giving our opening talk. We also take a look at the future of ORG in Scotland, revelations of RIPA abuse, and the future of copyright legislation.

Digital Rights in Scotland: Decision Time

As the vote on Scottish Independence fast approaches, we’re worried by what the lack of a strong network of rights organisations means for Scotland.

Day-to-day decisions involve digital rights issues. Do you buy the Smart Meter the energy company are pushing at you? Do you accept the Terms & Conditions for this free app you wanted? Do you share that video, that joke, that tweet?

Every week ORG are asked to comment on issues like these and address the big questions about who is watching us, where our data is going, and what we can freely say. We need to have the same ability to comment on and campaign about these issues in Scotland, and in the specific context of Scottish law.

We believe it is absolutely necessary for digital rights to be part of the discussion on the future of Scotland and an ORG Scotland office could help address these issues.

If you’d like to help us to build ORG Scotland, please encourage your friends to become a member.

We will also be at the Liberal Democrat Conference in Glasgow on Sunday 5th October.

The Don’t Spy On Us is asking the question, "Surveillance how do we reform RIPA and protect civil liberties?". Confirmed speakers include 
Julian Huppert MP
Eric Metcalfe - Barrister, Monckton Chambers
Paul Johnson - Deputy Editor, The Guardian
Jo Glanville - Director, English PEN
Jim Killock - Director, Open Rights Group

The event is open to everyone,conference delegates and members of the public alike.

100 Eastvale Place, Glasgow SWG3

RIPA misuse exposed

It was revealed last week that the Met police accessed the telephone records of The Sun's Political Editor, Tom Newton Dunn, using a RIPA request.

The case should end any discussion about whether or not metadata reveals anything personal about us: Newton Dunn's calls and when and where they were received, were seen as enough to identify a whistleblower, who contacted him over the Plebgate scandal.

Journalistic privilege, protected by the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, was circumvented by the use of RIPA. Newton Dunn was not even aware that his records had been accessed until the Met published their report into the Plebgate affair.

When DRIP was announced, Newton Dunn wrote in The Sun, that the new powers would give MI5 and cops, "crucial access to plotters' mobile phone records". UK public authorities use RIPA over 500,000 a year to access private data. The police refused to answer questions as to how many times they have have accessed journalists' data. When this is happening without our knowledge, we cannot ignore the threat to our civil liberties that data retention poses. 

Join us at ORGCon2014  this Autumn

ORGCon tickets are on sale! The early programme has been published, and we are pretty excited about this year's ORGCon. Join us on 15th-16th November at Kings College London.

There will be a keynote from ORG-founder, author, BoingBoing Editor and campaigner Cory Doctorow!

For the first time we’ll be having a second day where supporters can gather together to hack new tech projects, come up with campaign ideas and run their own sessions.

As the General Election approaches we’ll be talking about how to challenge a culture of surveillance. We’re gathering opinions and experts on the issue from all sides of the experience: home affairs representatives, those who have been victims of state surveillance, whistle-blowers and those who have suffered privacy invasion from stalkers, employers or the job centre.

We’ve sold a huge number of tickets already, and we still have so much more waiting to be announced. Please invite your friends along, ORGCon is a great place to talk about the current big issues of the Internet, make friends and meet with some amazing people.

Tickets for supporters are only £10:

Search Engine Law warning

Last week UK Culture Secretary Sajid Javid made some worrying declarations, threatening search engines with legislation unless they stop “sending people to illegal sites”.

In his speech to the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) he chose to make copyright enforcement the focus, laying out what the Government may have on the horizon. Sajid Javid informed us that he has written to Google, Microsoft and Yahoo asking them to stop “sending people to illegal sites”, threatening a legislative approach if he doesn’t see “real progress” on piracy.

However, we believe the close links between Governent and industry is concerning. All stakeholders involved, not just industry, including consumers and amateur creators must be considered in copyright enforcement.

Read Policy Director Javier Ruiz's thorough piece explaining why copyright is an fuzzy area, and examining Saijid Javid's speech in full.

Quick Fire news

We need your help to improve transparency around website blocking by court order. We've launched a fundraiser to support our project, 451 Unavailable, which will help ISPs make it clear why websites are blocked. We need all the court orders, but each one costs £10. Please consider donating to help us bring transparency to blocking.

ORG out and about

9 September - 10th September
Richard King, Project Manager, was in Istanbul delivering a workshop on censorship and surveillance.

Labour Conference, Sunday September 21st,  6.30pm.

Open Debate 'Surveillance, where do you draw the line?' with Labour MPs, MEPs and representatives of Don't Spy on Us.
Anthony Burgess Museum
M1 5BY

Digital Rights Hack Day, Saturday October 4th
10.00am - 9.00pm
Join us for a free hack day, we've got lots of ideas, projects to share, pizza and only a few places left.
Mozilla Office
101 St. Martin's London

Liberal Democrat Conference, Sunday, October 5th, 6.15pm
Open Debate 'Surveillance, where do you draw the line?' with Lib Dem MPs, MEPs and representatives of Don't Spy on Us.
100 Eastvale Place, Glasgow

[Read more]