Supporter Newsletter

November 06, 2019 | Mike Morel

Supporter Newsletter - November 2019

An action packed October at Open Rights Group (ORG) included a big win on age verification, our first ever ORGCon Scotland and new developments in our legal challenge to the Data Protection Act.

Gov drops Age Verification

After years of dithering, the Government cancelled plans to require age verification on adult websites, averting a systemic privacy risk for millions of UK residents. There’s no question children must be protected from harmful content, but the plan’s privacy protections were merely optional for companies and would have prompted the creation of vulnerable records of the public’s porn preferences. That could lead to people being outed, blackmailed or having their careers destroyed. With your support, Open Rights Group was able raise the alarm and convince the Government they were making a huge mistake. 

Support the appeal of ORG’s Data Protection Act legal challenge 

This year Open Rights Group and the3million argued before the UK High Court that the “immigration exemption” used to deny people access to their personal data is far too broad and imprecise. In October the judge ruled against our challenge, but in a win for transparency the Home Office said it will now inform residents when it uses the exemption. That means the millions of EU nationals living in the UK legally who have to reapply for a new immigration status after Brexit will be more able to contest what could be life-changing errors. We need your help to continue the fight. Please support our effort to appeal the decision.

Regulating the use of personal data in political campaigning

After the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) issued a draft framework code of practice for the use of personal data in political campaigning, ORG hosted a round table with participants from academia, government, and civil society. The meeting produced a bold call for greater coordination between the ICO and the Electoral Commission because online political campaigning requires both data protection regulation and campaign finance regulation. Currently it is difficult for the ICO and the Electoral Commission to interact as effectively as they could. Expect to hear a lot more from ORG on this subject as we approach the general election on 12 December.

ORGCon Scotland debuts in Edinburgh

Open Rights Group teamed up with the Scottish Informatics & Computer Science Alliance to host the first ever ORGCon Scotland in Edinburgh. Big thanks to all the speakers and attendees who made it a success! We explored the unique digital rights environment in Scotland including topics like police cyber kiosks and Government plans for digital identification. Check out the keynote address by co-leader of the Scottish Green Party Patrick Harvie MSP


ORG Norwich 20 November
Join us for a presentation by Pascal Crowe, ORG's Data and Democracy Project Officer, to learn how UK political parties use your personal data and what you can do about it.

ORG Glasgow 2 December
Join us for a free screening of Netflix’s the Great Hack followed by a panel discussion. The film uncovers the dark world of data exploitation through the journeys of players on different sides of the explosive Cambridge Analytica/Facebook data scandal. Register your free ticket here.

ORG Cambridge, London, Bristol & more:
We’ll be announcing several more November events soon - watch this space!

Last but not least, we’d like to thank VPN Compare for renewing their support of Open Rights Group.

Thanks for being part of the movement to protect UK digital rights.

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October 02, 2019 | Mike Morel

Supporter Newsletter October 2019

This week marks 14 years since Open Rights Group (ORG) was created to protect UK rights online! Each year our network and impact grows stronger, thanks to supporters like you.

Preparing for Brexit’s digital impact

In September ORG sent an open letter to ministers overseeing Brexit negotiations about the lack of preparedness for continuation of cross-border data flows in the event of a no deal exit. 75% of the UK’s international data flows are to and from the EU and include the transmission of personal data. In a no deal exit, the legal right to freely transfer personal data from the EU to the UK will disappear overnight. If you haven’t already, sign our pledge for a future of freedom and rights post-Brexit. 

Advertising Technology (AdTech) industry on notice

In September the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) reaffirmed their stunning assertion that the real-time bidding (RTB) systems underpinning the AdTech industry are unlawful under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and must be reformed by year’s end. The UK data protection authority’s game changing condemnation of RTB was a direct response to ORG’s joint complaint with Michael Veale and Dr. Johnny Ryan against ad giants Google and IAB. 

ORGCon is coming to Scotland

Join us Saturday 26 October in Edinburgh for ORGCon Scotland! Spread across three rooms, we’ll explore Scotland’s most pressing digital rights issues like government identity systems, police cyber kiosks and biometrics oversight. We’ll also consider broader topics like the adTech industry’s abuse of personal data and the social impact of technology and its effects on the democratic process. A full programme is coming soon. Get your FREE ticket here and see footage of ORGCon in London here. 

Ensuring effective biometrics oversight

ORG sent a joint open letter to Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Justice Humza Yousaf MSP calling for the scope of a new Scottish Biometrics Commissioner to expand beyond law enforcement. Biometric identifiers like facial and gait recognition are being used in health and social care, immigration proceedings, commercial spaces and even education. To strike a balance between security and rights to privacy and data protection, the new regulator’s jurisdiction must encompass all applications of biometrics in our society. ORG submitted evidence to the Scottish Government’s Justice Committee to support the letter.

ORG Around the UK

ORG Bristol 28 October
Data rights, worker’s rights and the gig economy.

ORG Glasgow 28 October
Brexit, digital rights & the coming election.

ORGCon Scotland 26 October
ORGCon 2019 is coming to Edinburgh!

ORG Manchester 19-20 October
ORG will be exhibiting at the open software “unconference” Oggcamp.

ORG Edinburgh 10 October
Data protection expert Chris Pounder “Ask Me Anything” session.

We’d like to send a big thank you to our supporters VPN Selector and Dot-com Monitor!

Thanks for supporting our work to protect UK digital rights. You can support our work by becoming a member today.


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August 05, 2019 | Mike Morel

Supporter Newsletter - August 2019

From hosting our biggest event ever to the rollout of a fully interactive parody social media website, Open Rights Group (ORG) has gone from strength to strength this summer. We couldn’t have done it without thousands of dedicated supporters like you.

Data Protection Act legal challenge update

A June hearing on our challenge against the Immigation Exemption in the Data Protection Act 2018 at the High Courts of Justice revealed this controversial data rights opt-out has been used in 60% of its immigration-related data requests this year. ORG opposes the Exemption because it allows bodies including the Home Office, hospitals, employers and landlords to refuse people access to their personal data if releasing the information would “prejudice effective immigration control.” We expect a ruling in the autumn.

Biggest, best ORGCon ever

In July ORG held the biggest and best ORGCon ever with over 700 attendees and an inspiring keynote by surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden. Many thanks to those of you who attended. You can watch the entire main stage showcase here:

Futurebook takes your personal data. Seriously.

Last month also saw the launch of one of our most ambitious campaign websites ever, the parody social media website Futurebook. Futurebook offers a bleak glimpse of what the Internet could look like if all our digital rights are traded away in secretive international agreements post-Brexit. If you haven’t already, check out Futurebook and share it with your friends and followers.

Last month ORG also launched a website dedicated to giving the facts about the privacy risks of the Government’s age verification plan for adult websites in the UK. Go to to learn the privacy risks of age verification technology - whether you’re an an adult, under 18 or if you own a website.


What Scotland can learn from the facial recognition fiasco

While the trials of live facial recognition in South Wales and the Metropolitan Police have been a slowly unravelling catastrophe, the controversial surveillance technology is still an ambition for Police Scotland. Before trials can even begin to take place, there is a need to pause and learn from what has gone on down South, writes Scotland Director Matthew Rice. 

New Gov launches attack on end-to-end encryption

Priti Patel, the freshly appointed Home Secretary, started her new job with demands for technology companies to design access for security and intelligence agencies into their secure messaging systems. Ms Patel was writing after a summit of ministers of the Five Eyes spying alliance, where their joint communique expressed similar positions, also echoed in a speech by the US Attorney General W.P. Barr last week. The coordinated barrage has raised alarm bells among human rights campaigners worldwide. Stay tuned for more updates.

We’d like to welcome our newest corporate supporters, Mappd, Loadview and SwitchVPN. Thank you for supporting our work!

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July 01, 2019 | Lee Maguire

Supporter Newsletter - July 2019

The first half of 2019 has been strong for Open Rights Group (ORG). We have taken positive steps in challengingexploitative online advertising practices and protecting digital privacy. We are also getting ready for our biggest ever ORGCon London event taking place in less than two weeks!

The forgotten online harm: Damage to freedom of expression

The Government’s new plan to make social media safer gives Internet companies little choice but to scan all user content with automated systems, putting legal speech in the crossfire. If this sounds familiar, it’s because we’ve just been through the same story with the Copyright Directive. The only difference is this time the algorithms will be setting their sights on “harmful content” instead of copyrighted material. Today is the last day of the public comment period on the Online Harms White Paper. If you haven’t already, please tell the Government that social media regulation must protect the right to free expression. 

Full ORGCON 2019 programme announced

With over 500 tickets sold and iconic mass surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden headlining, ORGCon 2019 on 13 July in London is shaping up to be our biggest and best ever. We’ve got four rooms of activism, talks, tech demos, and exhibits covering free expression online, mass surveillance, digital privacy and data & democracy. Check out the programme and get your ticket today if you haven’t already. We hope to see you there! 

Challenging real time bidding 

Google and the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) found themselves in the Government’s crosshairs when the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) agreed with complaints by Open Rights Group and Dr. Michael Veale that AdTech real-time bidding systems give individuals “no guarantees about the security of their personal data”. As new complaints to data protection authorities from rights organisations across Europe continue to multiply, the ICO’s statement could set a global precedent. ORG is calling for the ICO to back up their statement with action

Age verification rollout fizzles (again!)

In a major upset last month government plans to force online porn companies to verify the age of users have been put off yet again. The development occurred just a week after ORG published a report showing that the British Board of Film Classification’s (BBFC) Age Verification Certificate Standard fails to protect the privacy of 20 million adults that are estimated to watch porn in the UK. Meanwhile, Government plans to regulate beyond adult sites and age gate the wider Internet are gaining pace. 

Police Scotland forge ahead with Cyber Kiosks

Despite the good faith engagement of Open Rights Group and other civil society groups Police Scotland are determined to roll-out the cyber kiosks. ORG have raised concerns that the kiosks are not human rights compatible in a report released last month and presented to the Justice Sub-Committee on Policing. Despite the concerns of ORG, Scottish Human Rights Commission and the Information Commissioner’s Office, Police Scotland say they intend to go ahead with roll-out later this Summer. 

Biometrics Bill published

The Scottish Government published their proposed Bill to create a Biometrics Commissioner last month. ORG have been calling for the creation of a Commissioner for some time. While the Bill is welcome in principle, current proposals leave the Commissioner without sufficient powers to hold the Police to account for their collection, retention and deletion of biometric information. A Justice Committee call for evidence will be announced soon and Open Rights Group will prepare a response. 

ORG around the UK

ORG Cambridge Tuesday 2 July 7pm

Monthly Meetup: Join us to discuss digital rights issues & ORG’s current campaigns. All are welcome!

ORG Edinburgh Thursday 4 July 7pm

Join ORG's Executive Director Jim Killock to discuss the Government's Online Harms White Paper. The discussion will be followed by a social at a nearby pub.

ORG Norwich Wednesday 17 July 7pm

We'll get a report on ORGCon 2019 and get to see/listen to highlights. We'll also discuss running Healthy Digital Lifestyle pop-up sessions in central Norwich in August.

ORG Oxford Wednesday 24 July 6:30pm 

Learn about ORG’s GDPR complaints against Google & IAB’s real-time bidding systems in targeted advertising. We’ll also hear highlights from ORGCon and updates on current ORG campaigns.

Corporate supporters

We’d like to thank the following companies for supporting our work:


The Best VPN

VPN Review

Restore Privacy

Thank you for supporting UK rights online.

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June 03, 2019 | Mike Morel

Supporter Newsletter - June 2019

It’s been a year since the landmark General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) wrestled control over personal data back from Big Tech. We’re celebrating GDPR’s first birthday with a look at Open Rights Group’s (ORG) growing work to protect digital privacy.

Holding AdTech accountable
In late 2018 ORG filed a joint complaint to European data protection authorities against Google and IAB Europe for GDPR violations in their real-time ad bidding systems which often share personal data like location and browsing habits with hundreds of companies. Since then, AdTech complaints have multiplied across Europe with more recently filed in four countries as well as the Irish data protection authority opening an investigation into Google.

Taking the Data Protection Act 2018 to court
Last year Open Rights Group teamed up with campaigners for EU citizens’ rights the3million to challenge the “immigration exemption” within the Data Protection Act 2018 on the grounds that it undermines the privacy rights of literally millions of legal UK residents. In 2019 the case was granted judicial review and our legal team is currently gathering evidence in preparation for the hearing.

Empowering users with Data Rights Finder
GDPR gives us powerful new rights over our personal data, but it’s not always easy to know how to use those rights. To help ORG teamed up with ProjectsbyIF to create the webtool Data Rights Finder which cuts through the confusing language of company privacy policies to tell you exactly what data rights you have and how to flex them.

Measuring GDPR’s impact
The public conversation about GDPR is often focused on how companies achieve compliance with far less attention on its benefits to individuals. To address this disparity ORG published a report investigating UK residents’ awareness of GDPR and how well they know their new data rights. ORG also compiled and edited Volume 3 of GDPR Today which surveys GDPR’s implementation across the European Union.

Challenging vulnerabilities in age verification tech
ORG has worked steadily to raise the alarm about privacy shortfalls in age verification tools on adult websites mandated by the Digital Economy Act 2017. ORG is preparing a public resource to increase awareness about the privacy risks of age verification tech in preparation for when enforcement begins on 15 July 2019.

GDPR was a huge victory for digital privacy and has allowed ORG to advance its work protecting the UK’s personal data. Thank you for supporting our work.

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May 02, 2019 | Mike Morel

Supporter Newsletter - May 2019

As technology’s effect on daily life grows, Open Rights Group (ORG) is stepping up the fight to protect your rights online.

Click here to subscribe to digital rights email updates like this.

Online harms white paper published
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the Home Office unveiled long anticipated plans to address pressing “online harms” from cyber bullying to terrorist content. ORG is working with a diverse coalition of organisations to ensure a sensible pursuit of a safer Internet that does not damage free expression. We’ll be in touch soon about how you can help.

Exciting ORGCon July 2019 lineup updates
Former Google scientist and anti-censorship icon Jack Poulson joins Edward Snowden on our London event lineup as well as UN Special Rapporteur on the protection of freedom of opinion and expression David Kaye and director of Big Brother Watch Silkie Carlo. We’ve also confirmed an array of innovative tech-related art installations and live podcast recordings by Machine Learning Ethics. Early bird tickets are almost gone. If you haven't already, get yours here.

Age verification enforcement date set
Starting 15 July mandatory age verification technology for adult websites will be enforced, with non-compliant sites being blocked. ORG doesn’t object to shielding minors from pornography, but we strongly oppose the technology’s weak privacy protections because they remain totally optional. Keep an eye out for ORG’s upcoming new resource to help increase public awareness of the privacy risks of age verification technology.

ORG is hiring!
Do you or someone you know have a knack for communications and a passion for digital rights? We looking for a new communications officer to join our London office. The deadline for applications is Monday 6 May. Find everything you need to know to apply here.

Upcoming ORG events
Find an ORG event near you on our events or local groups pages.

ORG Cambridge
Monthly meetup
Tuesday May 7 2019
7:00 PM to 8:30pm
The Castle Inn
38 Castle Street, Cambridge CB3 0AJ

ORG Oxford
Will social media regulation curtail free expression online?
Wednesday 8 May 2019
Makespace Oxford
1 Artistotle Ln, Oxford

ORG Norwich
Monthly meetup
Monday, May 13, 2019
7:00 PM to 9:00 PM
21 Colegate, Norwich

Corporate supporters
We’d like to send a big thank you to Privacy Australia, our newest corporate supporter. We’d also like to thank Top10VPN, IVPN and Pyramid Wifi for renewing their support.

Thank you for helping to protect digital rights.

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April 03, 2019 | Mike Morel

Supporter Newsletter: April 2019

Your digital rights update on all things ORG.

Open Rights Group has announced ORGCon is back on 13 July 2019 with Edward Snowden as our keynote speaker! From the use of data in the democratic process to the impact of algorithms on free expression, we’ll be covering all things digital at our London conference. Early bird tickets are on sale now. 

Copyright showdown in Strasbourg

In a blow to a free and open Internet, the European Parliament in Strasbourg voted to pass the Copyright Directive including the notorious Article 13 (now Article 17), which could kick automated censorship into high gear. Despite the setback, the fight isn’t over. Legal challenges are all but certain and there will be opportunities to oppose upload filters when the Directive is incorporated into UK legislation.

Free speech in the crossfire

Open Rights Group sent an open letter with Index on Censorship and Global Partners Digital to Department of Digital Culture Media & Sport (DCMS) Secretary of State Jeremy Wright MP laying out steps to ensure proposals to combat online harms don’t trample free speech. The Government is expected to announce new plans to regulate social media platforms (and social media users) as soon as next week.

Defending the right to parody

The Government is conducting a review of copyright reforms introduced into UK law in 2014, including the right to parody. ORG is collecting evidence to defend this important right and we need your help. Have you or your organisation used parody since 2014? If so please help by telling us your experience by Friday 5 April.

ORG published GDPR Today

10 months after coming into effect, has the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) improved digital privacy across Europe? Check out the latest edition of GDPR Today, which was published by Open Rights Group, to find out.

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March 06, 2019 | Mike Morel

Supporter Newsletter: March 2019

From a shocking new development in our complaint against Google’s advertising practice to a breakthrough in our legal challenge against mass surveillance, February was a month to remember.

ORG in the Grand Chamber

When the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled on a challenge to mass surveillance brought by ORG and others last autumn, the judgment didn’t fully acknowledge the unlawful nature of the Investigatory Powers Act 2016. In February the case was referred to the ECtHR’s Grand Chamber where a definitive judgment is expected on the compatibility of mass surveillance with the European Convention on Human Rights.

Data and Democracy
Open Rights Group is excited to announce its new data and democracy project! To confront digital threats to the democratic process we will tackle new proposals for electronic voting across the UK and challenge the misuse of voter data by political parties. For a preview of what’s to come, read our critique of the government’s new report on disinformation and fake news.

Age verification regulator no show
As the UK’s anointed porn regulator, the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) is responsible for overseeing the implementation of age verification technology on adult websites as required by the Digital Economy Act 2017. Set to come online in April, ORG held a roundtable with age verification providers to discuss concerns over the technology’s glaring lack of privacy protections. Even though we made a point of holding the meeting close to their offices, the BBFC still didn’t show.

AdTech complaints heat up
Before you see an ad online, chances are your personal information has been shared with hundreds of advertisers bidding for your views. ORG filed a joint complaint with other privacy advocates against Google and the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) claiming this bidding system violates the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The plot thickened in February when new evidence was submitted allegedly showing that IAB was aware their bidding system was “incompatible with consent under GDPR.”

ORG raises concerns about legality of Police Scotland’s digital search and seizure
Off the back of reporting in The Times on Police Scotland’s intention to get further advice on the legality of their forensic kiosks, Open Rights Group (ORG) wrote to the Justice Sub-Committee on Policing to raise their concerns. ORG continued to force the point home that a full review of the legal basis for Police search and seizure of digital devices in Scotland should be carried out. In response, the Sub-Committee has written to members of the Cyber Reference Group (which ORG is a member of), including the Faculty of Advocates, Privacy International and the Information Commissioner’s Office to get their opinion on the proposed legal basis.

Unsettling the Home Office
Open Rights Group and the Immigration Law Practitioners Association (ILPA) called on the Home Office to improve the process of automated data checks within the EU Settlement Scheme, which all EU nationals must use to apply for settled status post-Brexit. The report asserts the Home Office’s duty to increase transparency and ensure meaningful oversight of the opaque process.

Article 13 powerplay
The European Conference of Presidents will vote this Thursday in Brussels on a request to fasttrack the final MEP vote on the EU Copyright Directive to 12 March. If successful, international protests against upload filters planned for 23 March will become obsolete. Stay tuned for ORG’s call to action.

Open Rights Group has local chapters across the UK. Find one near you.

ORG Edinburgh
ORG’s executive director Jim Killock reviews the current state of digital censorship in the UK.
Wednesday 13 March
The Melting Pot
5 Rose Street, Edinburgh EH2 PR

ORG Birmingham
ORG’s executive director Jim Killock reviews the current state of digital censorship in the UK.
Monday 18 March
Birmingham Open Media (BOM)
1 Dudley Street, Birmingham B5 4EG

ORG Cambridge
Monthly meetup to discuss digital rights and ORG's campaigns.
Tuesday 5 March
The Castle Inn
38 Castle Street
Cambridge CB3 OAJ

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