Supporter Newsletter

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!

[Read more]

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.

[Read more]

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.

[Read more]

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!


[Read more]

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.


[Read more]

August 03, 2018 | Mike Morel

Supporter Newsletter - August 2018

While Parliament’s in summer recess Open Rights Group is readying to hit the ground running this autumn. We’re gearing up for another critical vote on the EU Copyright Directive, a reckoning with Age Verification technology, and we’re taking the Government to court.

Back to the drawing board

After an astonishing vote on 5 July the European Parliament rejected the fast tracking of the EU Copyright Directive, causing a major setback for industry proponents of Article 13 and it’s controversial upload filters. An amendment vote on 12 September is our next opportunity to prevent automated copyright enforcement from damaging free expression online. ORG activists are prepping campaign events across the UK and we’ll be travelling to Strasbourg the week of the vote to meet with MEPs face to face.

Age Verification’s privacy problems

The rollout of mandatory age verification (AV) for adult websites is being delayed while the Government mulls over final details. AV tech will create highly sensitive databases of the public’s porn watching habits, and ORG has warned that the Government’s proposed privacy protections are woefully inadequate. Their hesitation could be a sign they are receptive to our concerns, but we expect final guidance will still treat privacy as an afterthought. MPs need to understand what's at stake before they are asked to approve AV guidelines after summer. Since they’re not in their offices, try using our easy Twitter tool to get their attention.

Legal challenge update

After a successful CrowdJustice fundraiser, ORG and campaigners for EU citizens’ rights the3million are advancing preparations for a legal challenge to the 2018 Data Protection Act’s “Immigration Exemption”. Holding a different standard for the millions of immigrants living in the UK legally is bad enough, but make no mistake - the Exemption is so wide it has the potential to negate data protection rights for any UK resident. Hear from ORG’s Scotland Director Matthew Rice exactly what the Exemption is, and why it’s so important to challenge it.


Scottish Gov opens biometrics consultation

Now’s your chance to weigh in on Government proposals to create a new commissioner to oversee the use of biometrics data by police in Scotland. ORG welcomes this development because Scotland stands alone among UK nations in lacking independent oversight. Read more about our position here.

Local organisers needed

ORG Cambridge and ORG Birmingham are on the lookout for more volunteer organisers. This involves conceiving, planning and promoting local events, networking with local allies, and spreading the word about ORG's activities. Local events include film screenings, expert talks, tech workshops and whatever else you dream up. No experience is necessary. All you need is an interest in digital rights and a desire to make a difference. If you are interested then write to and tell us a little about yourself.


ORG Cambridge

Monthly Meetup

We’ll be discussing campaign plans for the EU Copyright Directive. All are welcome!

Tuesday 7 Aug 2018,  7-8:30pm

The Castle Inn, 38 Castle Street

Cambridge CB3 OAJ


ORG would like to thank our newest corporate supporter Top VPN Canada!



[Read more]

July 10, 2018 | Mike Morel

Supporter update - July 2018

From victory at the Supreme Court to success in the EU Parliament and the launching of a new data rights service, it has been a busy summer for Open Rights Group. We would like to thanks all our members and supporters who made these achievements possible.

MEPs to Article 13 - “Not so fast!”

In a major upset to industry lobbyists Members of European Parliament (MEPs) voted last week 318 to 278 to reject the current version of the EU Copyright Directive, foiling plans to fast track Article 13 and its notorious ‘upload filters. We won the day but the fight against automated Internet censorship is not over. We’ll be ramping up pressure on MEPs until the Directive faces a final vote in September.

ORG victorious at UK Supreme Court

In a victory against runaway web blocking, the UK Supreme Court ruled in favour of Open Rights Group’s intervention in the Cartier jeweller case. The unanimous decision means Internet  Service Providers ISPs (and hence consumers) will not bear the costs of blocking trademark-infringing sites. With the onus now on rights-holders to fund the blocks they demand, we’ve reduced the threat excessive overblocking poses to free speech online.

ORG & IF present Data Rights Finder

ORG and Projects by IF launched a new service for the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) which makes it easier for the public to understand and use their new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) data rights. Want quick, clear answers about how a company stores your data, or whether they share it with third parties? Need to know exactly who to contact to make a subject access request? Data Rights Finder has answers.

Quickfire news

1. The Scottish Information Commissioner’s Office (SICO) published their intervention into the Scottish Government’s freedom of information (FOI) practice and performance. They concluded that the Scottish Government treated FOI requests from journalists differently from other requests. This was a betrayal of the ‘applicant-blind’ principle of freedom of information legislation according to the report.

2. A Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill is making its way through Parliament which seeks to criminalise the streaming of extremist content. Currently it is only an offence to download and store such material. Three or more views has been suggested as a threshold for offense, creating daunting free speech implications for journalists and academics studying terrorist propaganda.

ORG Events

ORG Cambridge

Plan for #SaveYourInternet Day

Discuss ORG’s plans to fight Article 13 when the EU Parliament reconvenes in late August.

Tuesday 7 August


The Castle Inn

38 Castle Street, Cambridge CB3 0AJ

ORG London

Data Democracy Workshop

Learn from Ben Falk how to how to request your data from the Home Office, the NHS, Facebook and more.

Tuesday 24 July


Newspeak House

133-135 Bethnal Green Road, London E2 7DG

ORG Manchester

Tech tools workshop

Learn how to use ORG’s tech tools Data Rights Finder and Blocked!

Monday 23 July


BPP University, St James Building

79 Oxford Street, Manchester M1 6FQ


Surveillance, policing & the law

Learn about your digital rights under the law and how to challenge corporate and government surveillance

Thursday 12 July


Kebele, 14 Robertson Road, Easton - Bristol


We’d like to thank the following corporate supporters:

Open Data Services, My Private Network, IVPN, File Sanctuary and The Organization.


[Read more]

June 01, 2018 | Ed Johnson-Williams

Supporter Newsletter: June 2018

It’s been an extremely busy March in the world of digital rights so let’s get right into it!

It’s been an eventful spring. In a landmark victory for digital rights, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) took effect. Unfortunately the Government decided to add an Immigration Exemption into the Data Protection Act 2018, which means that millions of legal UK residents won’t enjoy GDPR’s full benefits. ORG is preparing a legal action as the fight now moves to the courts, while other campaigns loom on the horizon. Never a dull moment!

Major data rights win!

There are many reasons to celebrate GDPR. Companies must now use plainly worded language to earn the right to process your data. GDPR also allows you to revoke consent and request your data be deleted or corrected if inaccurate. Other benefits include stronger safeguards against criminal hacks and increased transparency into data processing. Test your GDPR knowledge with the quiz that WON’T steal your personal data.

UK loophole to deny everyone access to immigration data

While GDPR brings many benefits, the UK’s new Data Protection Act adds new British loopholes, including an “Immigration Exemption”. This jeopardises the rights of millions of foreign nationals living legally in the UK. Now that the Exemption is law, Open Rights Group and the3million have teamed up to take the Government to court. Thanks to our supporters, we’re on the brink of reaching our legal fund target of £30,000! Help us cross the finish line with a donation or share.

Copyright checks for every EU upload

We’re less than a month away from a crucial vote on the EU’s Copyright Directive that could have major consequences for free speech online. The Directive contains Article 13 which requires platforms to use upload filters to check for copyrighted material and block it. Algorithms struggle to grasp context so are unable to reliably identify the vital legal exceptions to copyright that enable research, commentary, creative works, parody and so much more. Once in place, the Commission wants platforms to monitor for extremism and other things they think are illegal. There is still time to tell your MEPs to say no to Article 13!

Porn privacy threatened by useless "guidance"

The BBFC will issue their revised but toothless guidance on age verification tools soon for Parliament’s final say. This threatens the privacy of an estimated 20 million people who view legal adult material in the UK. We’ll need your help to raise the alarm when that happens, so keep a look out for important updates from us very soon. Learn more about what’s wrong with age verification for porn here.

Quick Fire News

ORG’s Executive Director Jim Killock recently spoke to the International Observatory of Human Rights about the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the allegations of Russian interference in foreign elections, and about how social media users can protect themselves.

Jim also commented in a PBS NewsHour segment about the international effects of GDPR.

ORG Legal Director Myles Jackman spoke at the launch of Big Brother Watch's Face Off campaign, which aims to tackle the increased use of facial recognition in policing. 

ORG: Out and About

ORG Cambridge
Monthly meetup
Join us for a lively discussion about digital rights & ORG's campaigns on data protection & free speech.

Tuesday 5 June
The Castle Inn
38 Castle Street
Cambridge CB3 0AJ

ORG Glasgow
Let’s talk about Tor
ORG's legal officer Alex Haydock will be joining us for a special talk about the Tor browser, who uses it, and why you might want to.

Thursday 7 June
The Electron Club
350 Sauchiehall Street Glasgow G2 3JD

ORG London
Book Launch
Will the digital revolution give us info democracies or info empires? Rufus Pollock’s new book The Open Revolution – New Rules for a New Age - explores the question.

Tuesday 12 June
Newspeak House
133 Bethnal Green Rd
London E2 7DG

New corporate supporters!

We’d like to thank and welcome our newest corporate sponsors Data Cycle Ltd. and Pyramid WiFi!

ORG’s Corporate Supporters help us to fight for the rights to privacy and free speech. If you own or work for a company that shares our values and concerns, please contact

[Read more]