Supporter Newsletter

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.

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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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February 05, 2019 | Mike Morel

Supporter Newsletter - February 2019

Fancy a break from Brexit? Here are some important updates about Open Rights Group’s recent work.


ORG’s legal challenge with the3million against the Data Protection Act’s “immigration exemption” passed a critical hurdle in January when a court granted permission for judicial review. [1] The exemption contradicts the spirit of the Act by undermining the data rights of every UK resident connected to someone going through the immigration process. We look forward to our day in court and will keep you updated as the case progresses. Thanks again to all who donated to make this challenge possible.


On Thursday Police Scotland revealed they will not be rolling out dozens of cyber kiosks which can read seized electronic devices [2] until they can provide legal certainty. Chief Constable Iain Livingstone recognised that “We didn’t absolutely establish and articulate the clear legal authority and rights-based authority for the use of the equipments.” [3] The move echoed evidence ORG submitted to the Justice-Sub Committee [4] last year calling for a halt to rollout, citing the lack of clear legal authority as a concern. It’s now imperative that any report Police Scotland receives regarding the legality of the use of the kiosks is made public.


The movement to delete Article 13 and its upload filters from the EU Copyright Directive continues. Last week Open Rights Group signed an open letter to EU negotiations [5] along with 87 organisations calling for the removal of Article 13. We’re also coordinating an international lobbying effort to knock some sense into MEPs across Europe. Even if the final vote happens after we’ve left the EU, you can be sure the Directive will have a major influence on the UK.



ORGCon 2019 is happening on Saturday 13 July in central London! A hotbed of discussion, debate, activism and action, the day will have four themes: digital privacy, censorship & the role of algorithms, mass surveillance, and data & democracy. Expect a full announcement and ticket sales soon. Meanwhile we want to hear from you. Is there a unique presentation, panel discussion or workshop you think would fit well? If so, let us know your session idea [6] before this Friday 8 February at 8am.


To celebrate the 13th annual International Data Protection Day, Open Rights Group published a new report about the public’s understanding of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). [7] The report found that although GDPR instils powerful rights to protect your personal data from Internet companies like Facebook, most people don’t know how to take advantage.


We’d like to welcome our new legal and policy officer Amy Shepherd to the staff!  Her work focuses on digital rights issues in the context of Brexit and online free expression.


Thank you to our corporate sponsors Automattic and Elegant Chaos for renewing their generous support!

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January 07, 2019 | Mike Morel

Supporter Newsletter - January 2019

We’re rolling into the new year with some serious momentum! Last year’s triumphs and generous supporter donations have us ready for a packed 2019.


You wouldn’t know it from the headlines, but Brexit’s impact on our digital rights will be a game changer. In the lead up to Brexit Day 29 March, Open Rights Group (ORG) is on a mission to keep you informed about the threats and opportunities Brexit poses for our lives online. We’ll also be informing lawmakers to know exactly how leaving the EU will affect UK digital rights so they’re prepared for post-Brexit negotiations.


Just as surveillance practices meant to keep us safer proved detrimental to digital privacy, new plans to eliminate “harmful content” risk escalating digital censorship. Part 1 of our new report series examines problems with current UK censorship practices like opaque takedowns and a lack of independent means of redress. Part 2 is coming soon and will address problems with the government’s emerging Internet Safety Strategy. 

The long saga of the EU Copyright Directive’s controversial Article 13 - which would introduce upload filters on major Internet platforms - is approaching a final EU Parliament vote as soon as February. That vote will be our last chance to prevent a “new normal” where most online speech is vetted by corporate algorithms. In recent months the catastrophic Directive has been opposed by some of the very rights holders it will supposedly benefit. Keep an eye out for our call to action in the coming weeks.


Following our opposition to electronic voting trials in Scotland last year, in 2019 we’ll expand our research to help the Scottish and Welsh governments to understand e-voting’s effects on public trust in elections. We’ve also planning to work with partners, experts and policymakers across the UK to establish principles and rules for the use of personal data in political campaigning. 

ORG is poised to make a big impact in 2019 thanks to donations from our members and supporters. If you haven’t yet, please donate today. Your donation will be 100% matched by our generous corporate supporters.

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December 19, 2018 | Mike Morel

Supporter Newsletter - What we won in 2018

Thanks to members and supporters like you, Open Rights Group (ORG) scored big wins in 2018 across our core issues of digital privacy, government surveillance and free expression online.



2018 saw two important court victories for ORG against the UK’s mass surveillance programme. Three years (and several courts) after ORG intervened in a challenge to the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIPA), the UK Court of Appeals agreed it was illegal. DRIPA aimed to legalise blanket data retention for police investigations. In a separate ruling in September, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled that the UK’s mass interception programmes have breached the European Convention on Human Rights.

In September, letters from ORG supporters reinforced ORG’s submission to a Government Consultation on a new biometrics commissioner in Scotland, with a large majority of respondents in favour of establishing a new commissioner. The consultation marked an important step toward establishing an independent Scottish institution equipped with the right tools for oversight of 21st century surveillance technologies.

A pivotal year for DATA PROTECTION

When the 2018 Data Protection Act’s unjust “immigration exemption” threatened to undermine gains won from the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), ORG teamed up with the3million to challenge the Government in court. ORG teamed with Projects by IF to create Data Rights Finder, which is a tool that empowers the public to use their new GDPR rights. ORG also provided resources for victims of the Cambridge Analytica / Facebook data scandal.

Following outcry from thousands of ORG supporters over weak privacy rules, the implementation of age verification technology for adult websites (mandated by the Digital Economy Act nearly two years ago) has been postponed until at least April 2019.

Fighting the rise of automated CENSORSHIP

In a win against Internet censorship, the UK Supreme Court agreed with ORG’s call for greater safeguards against the abuse of web blocking orders. If trademark holders are able to demand blocks at no cost, it would open the door to large-scale blocking of many kinds of websites. ORG also helped to prevent the fast-tracking of Article 13 in the EU Copyright Directive, which would introduce upload filters that harm free expression in their blind pursuit of copyright enforcement.

ORG’s tech tool Blocked - which lets you easily check if your websites are blocked by UK Internet Service Providers (ISPs) - increased our understanding of Europe’s censorship landscape by adding probes in a growing list of countries including Finland, Denmark and Poland.

Contributions from ORG members and corporate sponsors made 2018’s wins possible, along with the local organisers and activists who met us online and at over 60 events across the UK. Today’s supporter donations ensure our future work will pack a punch in 2019. If you haven’t already, please donate today while contributions are still matched.

Thank you for protecting digital rights.

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October 31, 2018 | Mike Morel

Supporter Newsletter: October 2018

There's plenty to be scared about this Halloween!

If you'd like to get ORG's digital rights updates in your inbox, click here.

"One-click" criminalisation threatens press freedom

ORG joined eight rights organisations to voice concerns to the Lords about threats to press freedom within the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill. The Bill proposes harsh sentences (up to 15 years in prison) for simply watching streamed extremist material. The "reasonable excuses" which allow journalists to view such videos for research are unclear, which can keep them from doing their jobs.

New guidance on Age Verification

The British Board for Film Classification (BBFC) was appointed as the regulator of Age Verification (AV) technology on pornographic websites and they have recently published this guidance. The good news? The BBFC acknowledged many of ORG's concerns and urged greater privacy protections for AV. The bad? Their recommendations are totally voluntary. With major data breaches making headlines on a regular basis, it is difficult to argue adequate protections should be optional. To make matters worse, the AV schemes may be up and running before the voluntary privacy rules are even written.

Post-Brexit trade & digital rights

Hundreds of ORG supporters submitted responses to the Government consultation on negotiations for UK/US trade relations. Rules for e-commerce and cross-border trade could have major impacts on digital censorship and privacy. ORG's primary request was for future trade negotiations to be made in public and under parliamentary oversight. 

Scotland's e-voting consultation

The Scottish Government recently published their analysis of a public consultation on electoral reform which included proposals for trials of electronic voting. When asked whether they would be more likely to vote if e-voting were available, 65% of the public said no. This shows what ORG has been arguing: e-voting does not improve participation and risks democratic integrity. The Government is still considering e-voting trials, but the subtle change in language to how trials might take place suggests the public has made them think twice. ORG supporters did a fantastic job in getting their concerns across to the Government. Thank you!



Article 13 in the balance

Trilogue negotiations took a hopeful turn with Italy's new government now opposing Article 13's automated upload filters. The three-way talks are the last opportunity to mitigate the worst parts of the Directive before a final up or down vote in the EU Parliament expected early 2019.

Launch of GDPR Today

A new publication by European Digital Rights (EDRi) launched this week to document the impacts of the GDPR across Europe and beyond. Check out GDPR Today for the latest on the fallout from Big Tech data breaches.

Copyright & the courts

The UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) plans to change the process by which Internet Service Providers (ISPs) block pirate sites. Administrative site blocking is being explored as an alternative to the current system which requires a High Court injunction. Sought by rights holders, the change could dramatically increase blocking while removing the benefits of case by case oversight.



ORG Bristol

Join us for an update from Privacy International on what's new in policing in the age of data exploitation.

Friday 9 November 2018 6pm-9pm


ORG Cambridge

Join us to discuss ORG campaigns and the latest in digital rights issues.

Tuesday 6 November 2018 7pm-8:30pm

The Castle Inn, Cambridge CB3 OAJ

ORG Aberdeen

Thursday 1 November 2018 6pm-8pm

Join us for a discussion with the British Computer Society about e-voting trials in Scotland. Robert Gordon University

Sir Ian Wood Building, Garthdee Road, Aberdeen AB10 7GJ



We'd like to thank our new corporate supporters NordVPN and 1Password for joining us, and VPN Compare for renewal for their generous support!


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September 26, 2018 | Mike Morel

Supporter Newsletter: September 2018

Carefree summer holidays quickly gave way to a flood of major events in Europe with big implications for UK digital rights.

European Court of Human Rights denounces UK surveillance

On September 13 the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled that the UK’s bulk interception programmes breached the European Convention on Human Rights. The case was started in 2013 by Open Rights Group and partners Big Brother Watch, English PEN and computer scientist Dr. Constanze Kurz following Edward Snowden’s revelation of GCHQ mass spying. Though a victory, the decision stopped short of declaring bulk interception illegal, instead faulting poor oversight.

Setback in Strasbourg

On 12 September the rollercoaster saga of the EU Copyright Directive took a serious dive. MEPs at the European Parliament approved Article 13, which would turn major Internet platforms like Facebook into copyright police. Contrary to benefiting creators, Article 13’s ability to redirect significant revenue to artists is questionable. If the law survives a final vote in February, expect a new era where free expression online is constantly tripped up by hamfisted algorithms.

Scotland’s biometrics moment

Scotland’s Government is proposing to create a new commissioner to oversee the rapidly evolving field of biometrics. No longer relegated to fingerprints and DNA, advances in biometrics like facial recognition technology are profoundly transforming the value of digital records like CCTV footage. Open Rights Group is working to ensure any new Commissioner has the tools and remit necessary for proper oversight. Scottish residents have until Monday to make their voices heard.

Calling all developers & designers

ORG is organising a hackday on Saturday 13 October in London. We’re looking for developers and designers to work with Data Rights Finder’s dataset and API to imagine and develop creative ways that a new tool could be used to help people with challenges around data use and protection. If you would like more information please contact

Spotlight on Digital Rights Management (DRM)

As part of the International Day Against DRM, Open Rights Group published a new report examining how DRM technologies stifle innovation and competition. The report also measures DRM’s impact on users’ security, privacy and right of access, and details the related phenomena of obsolescence and vendor lock-in. Unfamiliar with DRM? Have a look.


Holding FB to account

Were you one of the 87 million Facebook users that had their personal data shared without consent via Cambridge Analytica? Check your Facebook account here to see if you have been affected. You may be able to join a case against Facebook by contacting Ravi Naik of ITN Solicitors who is handling the first group claim on this matter. He is also the lead solicitor who brought the first claim against Cambridge Analytica.

Journalism in danger

Debate for the new Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill is scheduled for 9 October in the House of Lords. The Bill threatens reporters by criminalising the viewing of extremist content online, regardless of viewer intent. The sweeping law has attracted little publicity so far.

EU terrorism regulation

The European Commission has proposed a new regulation for fighting terrorist content online. This regulation explicitly encourages the use of Article 13-style upload filters, raising familiar threats to free expression online.


ORG London

Join us this evening to hear how makes government information more accessible online.

Thursday 27 Sept


133-135 Bethnal Green Road

London E2 7DG

ORG Aberdeen

Our monthly Cryptonoise event is a chance to discuss current digital rights issues and learn about cryptographic tools. Laptops encouraged!

Thursday 27 Sept


57North Hacklab

Lower Levels, 26 North Silver Street


ORG Cambridge

All are welcome to our casual monthly meetup. Learn about ORG’s campaigns and how to engage the Cambridge community.

Tuesday 2 October


The Castle Inn

38 Castle Street

Cambridge CB3 0AJ

Corporate Supporters

We'd like to thank Valcato Hosting and Best VPN Rating for their generous support.


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