Supporter Newsletter

March 01, 2018 | Caitlin Bishop

Supporter Newsletter: February 2018

It's been a big month for ORG - we've got a lot going on! Read on to find out everything that has been happening, and how you can get involved.

Tell your MP - the Immigration Exemption Must Go

On Monday the Data Protection Bill will be getting its Second Reading in the House of Commons. The Bill contains an immigration exemption, which if passed, would remove your right to data protection if it is likely to “prejudice effective immigration control”. If you don’t know what “prejudice effective immigration control” means - then you’re not alone, the phrase is deliberately opaque.

In reality the exemption removes the obligation on the Government to process personal information fairly and transparently, and would severely undermine important rights for millions of people living in the UK.

The Home Office's attempt to undermine data protection in this area demonstrates how easily threats to privacy can seriously impact a person's life. 

The Data Protection Bill is supposed to protect your data, but this immigration exemption ensures it will do anything but. That’s why we’re asking you to write to your MP and tell them the immigration exemption must go.

If you are a member of an ORG local group, find out how your group can get involved with our campaign here! 

Scotland is better off without E-voting

The Government’s new push to introduce electronic voting to Scotland would be a big step backwards for democracy.

There is no version of e-voting which meets the basic standards of a voting system:

Secure - Your vote has to be secure, steps must be taken to make sure it can’t be tampered with; but also
Anonymous - Your vote can’t be traced back to you, protecting you against coercion; but also
Verifiable - It has to be shown that one person cast this one vote, and didn’t cast another to be counted, but also continue to be secure and anonymous.
Some activities are better left offline, and voting is definitely one of them.

The Scottish Government is holding a public consultation on electoral reform that ends Monday March 12th. If you live in Scotland, we’re asking you to write in and tell them why you think Scotland is better off without E-voting.

Accessing GDPR

This month we launched our new project with IF - to make proof-of-concept for a tool that helps people understand their digital rights. We had some fantastic submissions and we want to say a huge thank you to everyone who submitted their thoughts! We are now working with IF to start the creation process.

Quick Fire News

A case between the US and Microsoft with significant implications for email privacy had its hearing at the US Supreme Court on the 27th - find out how ORG is involved here

Liberty has been in court, challenging the Snooper’s Charter, which must now be rewritten, find out more

Amber Rudd announced a new Government tool to identify extremist material, find out all the reasons we think this is a mistake here

ORG out and about

ORG Cambridge: Monthly March Meetup

Join us in our monthly meetup to discuss: the current state of digital rights, what we've done in the past month, and what we are planning to do in the upcoming months. 

March 6th
7:00 PM to 8:30 PM

ORG North East: Take control of your online life 
A Newcastle Libraries and Open Rights Group North East event to help you get the digital security and privacy skills you need to make the most of the internet and your mobile phone.

March 10th
2:30 PM to 3:30 PM

ORG Birmingham: What the Digital Charter Will Mean for Free Speech Online
Join for a relaxed discussion about the Digital Charter and what it means for freedom of speech online.

March 26th
6:30 PM to 8:30 PM

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January 31, 2018 | Caitlin Bishop

Supporter Newsletter: January 2018

We've been working on a little bit of everything this month, from Government surveillance and e-voting, to data protection and patent law!

Government Surveillance Ruled Illegal

Just yesterday the Court of Appeal handed down their judgement in a case we have been working on for the past 4 years. It’s official, to the shock of absolutely no-one, the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIPA) was illegal.

DRIPA may no longer be in force, but much of it was incorporated into the Investigatory Powers Act (IPA), which must now be amended to reflect the court’s opinion. The Government already knows this, this is why they opened their consultation on the IPA earlier this month, but the proposals they announced did not go far enough, and created some new problems in and of itself.

The Court of Appeal judgement is not a panacea, the Court completely swerved some of the most important aspects of the IPA. They said, for example, mass data retention and notification were for other people to deal with.

But a victory is a victory. DRIPA was illegal and now the government has work to do. You can find the full judgement here and for more information about ORG’s position head here

We want to expand our legal department to make sure we can keep winning in cases like these. In 2018, join ORG and help us to keep taking the Government to court.

E-voting in Scotland and Wales is a Bad Idea

E-voting fails to meet the basic standard for a democratic election: that it be free, safe, and secure. But in Scotland and Wales it's back and as dubious as ever. We’ve seen a lot of different e-voting systems but, as yet, we haven’t seen any that can solve it's fundamental problems. An election must be both anonymous and easily verifiable, but e-voting machines are opaque. Scotland and Wales should not go ahead with trialling online voting. Turnout goes up when voting make a difference. Trying to fix participation with technology is a dangerous distraction from the fundamental issue, that elections need to be meaningful to voters if engagement is to improve.

Find out more about ORG’s history with and position on e-voting here.

Epson - Stop Killing Compatibles

Have you ever heard the often quoted fact that printer ink is more expensive per drop than champagne? Unsurprisingly Epson want to keep it that way, and eBay are helping them do it. eBay has a programme called the ‘Verified Rights Owner’ programme - this allows Epson, and other big companies, to lodge a complaint of patent infringement that leads to other sellers being taken down with no evidence and no chance to defend themselves. This sets a highly dangerous precedent - find out more and sign our petition here.

Immigration Exemption Not Yet Dead

This month the Data Protection Bill made it through the House of Lords and despite significant lobbying from us and many other human rights organisations, the immigration exemption remains part of the draft bill.

The government have softened it slightly - allowing people to retain their rights to portability and rectification when it comes to their immigration data. Both of these ‘concessions’ do nothing to change the fundamental force of the exemption, which would prevent people from being able to challenge Home Office errors, which are worryingly commonplace in immigration cases.

The Bill will be back in Parliament at the end of February - and so will we, telling the Government this exemption must be removed.

Quick Fire News

NHS Digital released guidance approving off-shoring patient data, read all about the move and our concerns here.

Theresa May says ‘technology companies employ some of the brightest minds in the world’. We don’t think that means they should be doing the job of censors - tell the Government what you think bysigning our petition.

The official text of the Digital Charter has been released - read all two pages of it here.

ORG: Out and About

ORG Glasgow monthly meet-up
Join ORG Glasgow and Matthew Rice, ORG's Scotland Director, to discuss future plans for ORG in Scotland and how you can get involved!
February 1st
6:30 - 8pm

Electron Club, Centre for Contemporary Arts, 350 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow
G2 3JD

ORG Cambridge Monthly meet-up
Join ORG Cambridge to discuss the current state of digital rights, and their plans for the upcoming months!
February 6th
7pm - 8:30pm

The Castle Inn, 38 Castle Street, Cambridge, CB3 0AJ

Take Control of Your Online Life
A Newcastle Libraries and Open Rights Group North East event to help you get the digital security and privacy skills you need to make the most of the Internet and your mobile phone. March 10th
12:30pm to 3:30pm

Newcastle City Library, Charles Avison Building 33 New Bridge Street West, Newcastle, NE1 8AX


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November 02, 2017 | Mike Morel

Supporter Newsletter: November 2017

This autumn ORG has been busy challenging the Government's heavyhanded approach to online extremism, fighting for stronger online privacy protections, and documenting thousands of cases of wrongful internet censorship. We're also gearing up for ORGCon 2017 on November 4th & 5th and expanding our London staff! Thank you for staying engaged and supporting ORG’s campaigns to protect our digital rights.

This autumn ORG has been busy challenging the Government's heavyhanded approach to online extremism, fighting for stronger online privacy protections, and documenting thousands of cases of wrongful internet censorship. We're also gearing up for ORGCon 2017 on November 4th & 5th and expanding our London staff!

Thank you for staying engaged and supporting ORG’s campaigns to protect our digital rights.

Fighting online censorship

ORG's new petition to the Home Office opposes plans to criminalise online viewing habits and impose heavy fines on internet companies for not removing illegal content quickly enough. These proposals hurt online speech by encouraging the use of highly inacurrate filters that take down the good along with the bad. ORG's newly upgraded censorship detection tool Blocked! demonstrates how automated ISP filters meant to block terrorist propaganda and child pornography are also blocking thousands of innocent websites. There's still time to sign the petition!

Tune into ORGCon 2017

If you can't make it to ORGCon this year, be sure to tune in online during Day 1 on Saturday November 4th. Hear our amazing lineup of speakers streamed live on ORG's YouTube page, or follow us on Twitter and Facebook for live updates.

We’d like to say a massive thank you to Private Internet Access who are helping ORGCon to happen through their generous sponsorship. Private Internet Access offers high speed anonymous VPN services, enabling encrypted communications and access to blocked websites.

Tickets are still available. We hope to see you there!

Improving data protection 

With the aim of putting data protection rights on par with traditional consumer rights, ORG has been lobbying the House of Lords as they consider the Data Protection Bill. ORG has been advocating for the inclusion of Article 80(2) of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) into the DPBill, which would allow qualified privacy organisations like ORG to challenge data abuse independently. So far the Lords have reacted positively with cross party support. 

In October hundreds of ORG supporters contacted their MEPs and urged them to ban cookie-walls and eliminate corporate loopholes in the ePrivacy Regulation, which is a compliment to the GDPR. Despite heavy pressure from companies like Facebook and Google to weaken the Regulation, the European Parliament has voted to negotiate with the Council of the European Union.

ORG is hiring!

ORG is hiring a new Chief Operating Officer. We are looking for an experienced and successful organiser with strong project management skills to join our team to help us reach the next stage of our development. We are looking for someone with a proven interest in digital rights and wants to see us succeed.

In order to successfully develop our grants, the successful candidate will guide the team through new, more complex project delivery, and apply project management techniques to move existing projects forward.

The deadline is this Friday! Apply here.

Quick Fire News

ORG signs open letter against Article 13 of Copyright Reform

Read the letter to EU officials. The vote in the European Parliament on Copyright Reform is scheduled for November.

ORG's Policy Director at UK Parliament

On 31st October Javier Ruiz presented to the Artificial Intelligence Committee regarding AI and data protection. View his testimony here.

Epson deletes competing Ebay ink listings citing patent claims

Find out from ORG’s policy officer Slavka Bielikova about the negative implications this has for consumers.

ORG publishes briefing on the Data Protection Bill. 

Read about ORG’s take on the Data Protection Bill, including what’s wrong and how to fix it.

ORG around the UK

ORG London presentation on the Cryptobar

Fabio Natali will be giving a presentation on the Cryptobar installation, a project aimed at spreading the word about privacy (and privacy-enhancing technologies) in an artistic and accessible way. 
Monday December 11th
Newspeak House

ORG Cambridge Monthly Meetup

Join us to discuss digital rights & our plans for the future.
Tuesday Nov 7th
The Castle Inn

ORG Glasgow Monthly Meetup
Join us to discuss digital rights & our plans for the future.
Thursday Nov 2nd
Electron Club

Thank you for supporting digital rights.

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September 05, 2017 | Mike Morel

Supporter Newsletter: September 2017

As summer draws to a close ORG is gearing up for Parliament’s upcoming debate of the Data Protection Bill. We are also preparing to host ORGCon in London in early November. We hope you can make it! Thank you for staying engaged and supporting ORG’s campaigns to protect our digital rights.

ORGCon 2017

Mark the calendar. ORGCON 2017 will be on Saturday 4 November at Friends House on Euston Road in London. There will be a second smaller event on Sunday 5 November in Shoreditch.

This year’s theme is the Digital Fightback. We are putting together a fantastic list of speakers from the worlds of politics, technology and law. Confirmed so far are Graham Linehan, Noel Sharkey, Helen Lewis, Jamie Bartlett and Nanjira Sambuli.

Tickets will go on sale later this week so watch out for the email or announcement on Twitter. If you’re not a member of ORG, now is the time to join and get a free ticket. Existing members will also get discounted rates. If you’re interested in volunteering on the day, please email to find out more.

We’d like to say a massive thank you to Private Internet Access who are helping ORGCon to happen through their generous sponsorship. Private Internet Access offers high speed anonymous VPN services, enabling encrypted communications and access to blocked websites.

We hope to see you there!

Data Protection Bill

Parliament will debate a new data protection law this autumn, which will implement the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This welcome development will give people more control over how their data is collected and used. 

Unfortunately, the Government is opting not to allow privacy organisations to lodge independent complaints over data protection, instead relying on individual citizens to navigate highly technical data laws on their own.

In response ORG will be campaigning for the right to lodge complaints. We will also ask the Government to explain exactly how UK data protection rights will endure after Brexit. Once the UK leaves the EU, it is unclear whether these data laws will remain intact.

We’ll also be challenging provisions in the Bill that could threaten cryptographic research and development. ORG Board member Alec Muffett has written more about the dangers of criminalising data set re-identification in our blog.

ORG staff appeared on news outlets including BBC Radio 5 live to discuss the legislation. ORG staff were also quoted in articles by New Scientist and Computer Weekly.

Online hate crimes

The Crown Prosecution Service has announced they will treat online hate crimes as seriously as offline crimes. ORG agrees the CPS should bring prosecutions against those who use social media to commit hate crimes. This is also preferable to leaving companies to police their users’ actions. 

Yet there remains a danger that an imprecise definition of online hate speech could potentially chill free speech. How will the authorities decide what is hate speech and what is merely offensive or in bad taste?

Read ORG legal director Myles Jackman’s caution against a strict interpretation of the CPS’s open-ended guidelines and the implications for free speech online.

Facial recognition tech at Notting Hill Carnival

ORG opposed the use of mobile facial recognition cameras at this year’s Notting Hill Carnival. Facial recognition technology may have racial biases and can lead to discriminatory policing because it can misidentify innocent people. Sky News reported that the technology produced dozens of false matches and an erroneous arrest at Carnival this year.

The cameras also violate the privacy of everyone at the carnival by recording people’s faces. The police did not discuss their plans with carnival organizers and we do not know what will happen to the data that is collected.

With no independent oversight or approval from Parliament, it is unclear that any law allows the police to use facial recognition technology.

Open Rights Group is working with other civil liberties and race relations groups to call on Metropolitan Police to stop their discriminatory plans, and to start a dialogue on the use of this technology.

Quick Fire News

Reforms to defamation in Scotland 
The Scottish Law Commission has published a Bill to reform the law on defamation in Scotland. The Bill has been welcomed by most for its effort to bring the law into the 21st century, but there is still work to be done on improving it, including narrowing the scope of takedown notices courts will be able to issue after cases. Read ORG’s response to the Bill.

ORG Scotland - Free screenings of Internet's Own Boy
Local Groups in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, and Glasgow are putting on free screenings of The Internet’s Own Boy, the life story of programmer, writer, political and internet activist Aaron Swartz, an internet pioneer and free speech campaigner. Aaron Swartz was involved in the development of Creative Commons, Reddit and the campaign against the Stop Online Piracy Act.

There is a confirmed date for Glasgow at the Centre for Contemporary Arts on 2 October
Aberdeen and Edinburgh dates and venues will follow shortly. For more information about the events and other Scotland updates follow @ORGScotland, sign-up for the Scotland-discuss mailing list, or contact Hope to see you there!

ORG out and about

Freenode Conference
28-29 October 2017
Bristol UK
Hear ORG legal director Myles Jackman speak

September 05 ORG Cambridge: Monthly Meet Up
Tuesday 5th September 2017
The Castle Inn
38 Cambridge Street
Cambridge CB3 0AJ

September 05 ORG Worcester: Inaugural Meet Up
Tuesday 5th September 2017
The Kings Head (Sidbury)
Worcester WR1 2HU

September 25 ORG Birmingham: Cybersecurity for ‘real people’
Monday 25th September 2017
BOM (Birmingham Open Media)
1 Dudley Street
Birmingham B5 4EG

New Corporate Supporter

We’d like to thank our newest corporate sponsor Cypherpunk for their generous support.



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July 06, 2017 | Charlie Tunmore

Supporter Newsletter: July 2017

The Queen's Speech included several worrying things for digital rights which we'll be challenging over the next few months. Thank you for helping to inform our work and carrying out our campaigns to ensure that our digital rights are protected.

Queen’s speech 2017 -threats to privacy and free speech

Here are some key announcements from the Queen's speech that will affect digital rights:

Digital Charter
The UK Government plans to create a Digital Charter that will "keep everyone safe". This isn’t a Bill, but some kind of policy intervention, backed up by “regulation”. At this point, it is hard to know exactly what harms will emerge, but pushing regulation of the internet into the hands of private companies is problematic. Read more about internet regulation and our response to the London and Manchester attacks here.

Counterterrorism review
The review includes “working with online companies to reduce and restrict the availability of extremist material online”. This appears to be a watered down version of the Conservative manifesto commitment to give greater responsibility for companies to take down extremist material from their platforms. 

Commission for Countering Extremism 
A Commission will look at the topic of countering extremism, likely including on the Internet. This appears to be a measure to generate ideas and thinking, which could be a positive approach, if it involves considering different approaches, rather than pressing ahead with policies in order to be seen to be doing something.

Encryption is not mentioned in the Queen's Speech, but that’s because the powers will be brought in through a statutory instrument enabling Technical Capability Notices.


Shape the future of ORG Scotland's local groups

Matthew Rice – our new Scotland Director – is visiting several local groups in Scotland over the next couple of weeks. Come along to meet Matthew and help shape upcoming work in ORG local groups. They are free and open to all.

The events are also a chance to meet people with an interest in digital rights and figure out how we can work together to protect and promote digital rights across Scotland. 

The UK Government should protect encryption not threaten it

It is difficult to overstate the importance of encryption. A cornerstone of the modern digital economy, we rely on it when we use our digital devices or make transactions online. Encryption also strengthens democracy by underpinning digital press freedom. 

Laws restricting encrypted communications have generally been associated with more authoritarian governments, but lately proposals to circumvent encryption have been creeping into western democracies. Home Secretary Amber Rudd MP recently said that there should be a way around end-to-end encryption on devices like WhatsApp.

Rudd already has legislation that claims to give her the power to tell WhatsApp to remove “electronic protection” (read “encryption”). She can issue a technical capability notice (TCN) which instructs commercial software developers to produce work-arounds in their software without outlawing or limiting encryption itself. 

ORG leaked a secret Home Office consultation on the draft TCN regulation, which gives more detail about how this power can be used. To be clear, this goes way beyond WhatsApp. The Government wants access to all UK telecommunications encompassing a wide variety of services. 

We expect that they will publicise a statutory intrument that will allow these powers to come into effect. See ORG’s detailed breakdown of the TCN regulation here.

Last week, ORG joined 83 organisations and individuals from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States, in calling for our respective governments to defend strong encryption.

Don't Spy On Us coalition has ended

The group came together following revelations by Edward Snowden that showed the UK and US governments were engaged in the mass surveillance of their own citizens and people around the world.

DSOU called for an independent inquiry into mass surveillance by the UK Government and set out six principles for targted surveilance. The group worked together to campaign to modify powers in the Investigatory Powers Act.

Following the passing of this law, the DSOU has decided that the coalition is no longer the most effective way to challenge this law. Member organisations will continue to work with each other to push back against mass surveillance in the UK.


Quick Fire News

Devolved voice in Scotland vital for digital security
Read Matthew Rice's (our new Scotland Director) article on securing human rights in the digital age.

Blocked campaign
We are relaunching Blocked on the week beginning 24 July. If you want to help report Blocked sites please get in touch.

Tech companies establish the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism
Jim Killock discussed in a blog if tech companies can do more to eradicate safe spaces online.

Why The Government Shouldn't Break WhatsApp 
Clear and concise video by Tom Scott explaining why the UK Government should protect encryption not threaten it.


ORG out and about

ORG Scotland: Ask Me Anything
Tuesday 11 July, 
12pm - 1pm
This AMA session is an opportunity to meet the new Scotland Director.

38 Castle Terrace,
Edinburgh, EH3 9DZ

ORG Cambridge: 
Wikileaks documentary

Tuesday 11 July, 6:30pm - 9:30pm
Join the group for an outing to watch 'Risk'.

The Arts Picturehouse,
38-39 St Andrew's Street, 
Cambridge, CB2 3AR

ORG Edinburgh: Shape the future of ORG Scotland
Tuesday 11 July, 6:30pm - 8:30pm
This is a chance to work together to protect and promote digital rights in Edinburgh and beyond.

The Royal Dick,
1 Summerhall Place, 
Edinburgh, EH9 1PL

ORG Leeds: Free online privacy workshop for beginners
Wednesday 12 July, 6:30pm - 8:30pm
Learn how to protect yourself from mass surveillance and online crime.

Cosmopolitan Hotel,
Lower Briggate, 
Leeds, LS1 4AE

ORG Aberdeen: Shape the future of ORG Scotland
Thursday 13 July, 6:30pm - 8:30pm
This is a chance to work together to protect and promote digital rights in Aberdeen and beyond.

Under the Hammer,
11 North Silver Street, 
Aberdeen, AB10 1RJ

ORG Birmingham: 
De-Google-ify your life!

Monday 24 July, 6:30pm - 8:30pm
The group will be offering practical advice for replacing Google services with independent services.

Birmingham Open Media,
1 Dudley Street, 
Birmingham, B5 4EG

Corporate supporters

We’d like to thank our latest Corporate Sponsors RaveX IT ServicesMy Private NetworkFlower Telecom and Private Internet Access for their generous support.

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March 30, 2017 | Charlie Tunmore

Supporter Newsletter: March 2017

This month we have been campaigning against the proposed changes to the Espionage Act that is currently being consulted on by the Law Commission. We are organising Local Group events up and down the country to raise awareness of what the Act means.

Spy law would criminalise journalists

The Law Commission is advising the Government how to update the law about disclosing classified state secrets. They want a new Espionage Act that could see journalists facing up to 14 years in prison for disclosing official data.

Their proposals would stop investigative journalism and public-interest whistleblowing concerning the secret state. It would mean that the then Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger and journalists Laura Poitras, Glenn Greenwald, Ewen MacAskill and James Ball could have been imprisoned for exposing the government surveillance revealed by Edward Snowden.

Whistleblowers and journalists wouldn't be able to use a public interest defence to protect themselves if they were prosecuted under the proposed Espionage Act. Instead, GCHQ and government staff would have to raise concerns internally. Journalists could be treated as spies for handling data - meaning they would have to turn down requests to investigate and report, or risk jail. 

Jim Killock, Executive Director of ORG told the Guardian: “This is a full frontal attack on journalism ... The intention is to stop the public from ever knowing that any secret agency has ever broken the law.” Please share the campaign and sign the petition.

Rudd attacks encryption

Amber Rudd has engaged in another attack on people’s security by suggesting that companies must be able to ‘remove’ encryption. But as Jim Killock pointed out in a blog on Monday, Rudd already has the powers to attack encryption. 

Last year, the UK Government passed the Investigatory Powers Act, which gives British law enforcement and intelligence agencies vast surveillance powers. These powers already grant the minister the ability to issue a “Technical Capability Notice” with which Amber Rudd could instruct WhatsApp to re-engineer their product to be surveillance-friendly.

There are enormous problems with TCNs. They can be “appealed” to a technical committee but it is unclear how well the process will ever deal with wider security concerns, or risks to the companies or their users. The process seems focused on ‘feasibility’ rather than whether introducing weaknesses is a good idea.

Fundamentally, anything which enables GCHQ to listen in could be available to someone else, whether another government, or perhaps a criminal who learns how to abuse the weakness. We should use Amber Rudd’s cheap rhetoric as a launch pad to ask ourselves why she has such sweeping powers, and what the constraints really amount to.

Wikileaks latest 

A new Wikileaks dump revealed that US intelligence agencies are working with the UK to stockpile vulnerabilities that they can use to hack Windows and Mac computers, iOS and Android smartphones, and smart TVs. The agencies will use these vulnerabilities for targeted surveillance. However vulnerabilities can also be discovered and exploited by criminals and other countries’ intelligence agencies. GCHQ's decision to keep their exploits secret could have devastating effects for society at large. Many of the vulnerabilities disclosed in the CIA's files came from UK intelligence agencies including GCHQ. The UK Government has some serious questions to answer

While targeted surveillance is a legitimate aim, we need to know that government regulation of this area is sufficient. From what we learnt during the passage of the Investigatory Powers Act, it appears that the ‘creation’ of techniques is not really regulated at all. NSA and GCHQ must disclose what they know about repairing these vulnerabilities and how they might be exploited to assist in this effort. 

Stop DEBill censorship 

The Digital Economy Bill (DEBill) is at the report stage in the House of Lords, a long way down the parliamentary process, and the concerns around age verification and censorship of legal pornographic websites are still there. Further amendments have been published but unfortunately, they are too little and too late to limit the Bill’s harm to free expression and privacy of UK citizens.

The DEBill is an example of how not to legislate for the Internet and complex social issues. Among other things, the Bill, attempts to address the issue of under 18s seeing pornography, by forcing porn sites to implement Age Verification. This ‘simple’ solution has been fraught with problems from the start.

Age Verification is in a terrible mess. There are no privacy safeguards on the face of the DEBill, which means that UK citizens could be at risk of having private information about their porn habits and sexuality leaked, hacked or exploited. ORG has repeatedly called for the privacy concerns to be addressed.

The only conclusion we can make is that the Bill is so far from ready, so absent of safeguards, that these sections need to be dropped. Read the full article here.

Quick Fire News

Relaunch of ORG Brighton
We now have two new Local Organisers supporting the group! Find out about the group's plans for the future. 

On Reddit?
Join us for a discussion about all things digital rights. Why not even become a moderator?

How are mobile phone users spied on in Birmingham?
Read the round-up of ORG Birmingham's event to learn how the police are using covert surveillance technology to spy on hundreds of mobile phone users at a time.

Digital Economy Bill briefing to the House of Lords report stage

Read ORG's concerns over the Bill.

ORG out and about

ORG Cambridge: Digital rights meet up
Tuesday 4 April, 7pm - 9pm
Join the group for their monthly meetup to discuss the current state of digital rights, what they've done in the past month and what they are planning to do in the upcoming month. 
The Castle Inn
38 Castle Street, 

ORG Brighton: The Espionage Act Talk - convicting whistleblowers as spies?
Tuesday 4 April, 7pm - 8:30pm
The Local Group is hosting an evening of talks all about the proposed changes to the Espionage Act.
Friends Meeting House

Ship Street,
BN1 1AF,

ORG Leeds: 14 years in prison for doing journalism?! An in-depth look at the Espionage Act
Wednesday 12 April, 6:30pm - 8:30pm
Join us to find out from Jim Killock what the new law means for journalists and whistleblowers and what you can do to stop the Law Commission's proposals.
Cosmopolitan Hotel

Lower Briggate, 
LS1 4AE, 

ORG staff news

Jim Killock participated in a panel discussion on surveillance and the Investigatory Powers Act at the Lush Summit 2017.

Jim Killock attended a meeting with Privacy International to discuss the Espionage Act.

Jim Killock, Slavka Bielikova and Charlie Tunmore attended EDRI General Assembly 2017.

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February 02, 2017 | Charlie Tunmore

Supporter Newsletter: February 2017

We’ve only been back a few weeks from our Christmas holidays, and it’s already been very busy. We've launched two campaigns, produced a briefing for the Lords and helped to organise a number of Local Group events. As ever, thank you for your support.

New government jobs

We have launched a spoof recruitment campaign to highlight absurd proposals in the Digital Economy Bill, which will give the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) the power to classify and censor websites, just like they do for films.

The BBFC will decide if porn sites are checking and monitoring the age of their users. If they're not, the BBFC can tell ISPs to block sites – even though their content is legal. The only problem is that the Internet is massive so the BBFC can't be expected to do it all by themselves. So we're running spoof adverts for Internet Censors, who can help the BBFC classify all of the adult content on the web.

The campaign launch coincides with the start of the committee stage for the Digital Economy in the House of Lords this week. Please share the campaign and sign our petition.


Don't let Trump get his hands on our data

“I have made it clear in my campaign that I would support and endorse the use of enhanced interrogation techniques.” - Donald Trump, 15/02/16.

President Trump now has unrivalled access to data collected by UK intelligence agencies. And thanks to the UK’s Investigatory Powers Act, the UK is collecting huge amounts of data about all our lives in Britain and around the world - in bulk - and sharing it with the US.

Trump has threatened to use torture, ban Muslims from entering the US, and expand use of the death penalty. He has banned most refugees and suspended visas for people coming from seven majority-Muslim countries.

The Investigatory Powers Act is a careless law, passed by MPs who didn’t consider future abuse. The UK should not be complicit in sharing intelligence if it’s going to be used for human rights abuses. Please sign our petition to stop sharing bulk data with the US.


Whatsapp security

The Guardian reported in January that WhatsApp - owned by Facebook - has a “backdoor” that “allows snooping on encrypted messages”. However, after the article was published, it was clear that this flaw was not a backdoor that WhatsApp can use for routine access to users’ messages.  Our Campaigner Ed Johnson Williams, explained how it works here.

Lots of people recommend Signal as an alternative to WhatsApp. Unlike WhatsApp, Signal does not collect data about users and share that data with Facebook. Facebook’s business model is to collect as much data about people as possible to help sell advertising. And unlike WhatsApp, Signal's code is open source meaning it’s possible to verify that it’s working properly.

It's a struggle to get people to use secure messaging tools. Facebook and WhatsApp’s business model leaves much to be desired and Signal does a lot more to respect the privacy of its users. But WhatsApp have been successful in getting millions of people to encrypt the contents of their messages end-to-end. 

Lords Committee slams data sharing powers in Digital Economy Bill

The Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee of the House of Lords has made some very critical recommendations about the data sharing proposals in the Digital Economy Bill.

The Committee asks for the “almost untrammeled” powers given to Ministers in the Bill to be severely curtailed, and for all Codes of Practice associated with these data sharing powers to be laid before Parliament in draft for full approval before coming into force. 

We can see that the Government will resist such a move, as that level of flexibility appears central to their approach to data sharing. If they plan to ignore these recommendations, the Cabinet Office will need to include much stronger safeguards on the face of the Bill about the criteria and processes for inclusion in the data gateways.

Javier Ruiz Diaz (ORG's Policy Director) has been speaking to the Cabinet Office and the Information Commissioner's Office to press our concerns over data sharing.

Quick fire news

Launch of ORG Leeds
The Leeds group formed in response to the continued erosion of our rights to privacy and freedom of expression.

Repeal Section 40
ORG launched a petition to repeal Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act.

Digital Economy Bill briefing to the House of Lords
Read ORG's concerns about the Bill. 

UK ISPs to send piracy warnings
The biggest UK Internet service providers began to send the first round of privacy warning letters in January.

ORG out and about

ORG London: Trip to the Science Museum to see 'Our Lives in Data'
Saturday 4th February, 3:30pm - 5pm
Join ORG London to explore how our online behaviour, our travel, and even our DNA is being recorded by interested organisations.
Science Musuem,
Exhibition Road, 

ORG Cambridge: Digital rights meet up
Tuesday 7th February, 7pm - 9pm
Join ORG Cambridge for their monthly meetup to discuss the current state of digital rights, what they've done in the past month and what they are planning to do in the upcoming weeks.
The Castle Inn,
38 Castle Street, 

ORG Birmingham: Learn how mobile phone users are spied on in Birmingham
Wednesday 22nd February, 6:30pm - 8:30pm
Join ORG Birmingham to look at how police are covertly using devices to indiscriminately intercept and hack up to 500 phones every minute.
Birmingham Open Media,
1 Dudley Street,
B5 4EG

ORG Aberdeen: Cryptonoise: how to protect yourself online 
Thursday 23rd February, 7pm - 9pm
Join ORG Aberdeen to discuss digital freedoms and explore the use of cryptographic tools.
57 North Hacklab,
35a Union Street, 
AB11 5BN

Still: Immersive theatre piece
Wednesday 1st March / Thursday 2nd March, 6:30pm / 7:30pm
Exploring the issues surrounding data protection, surveillance and internet identity.
The Old Market, 
11a Upper Market Street,

ORG staff news

Javier Ruiz Diaz attended the launch of the VIRT-EU project in Copenhagen, where ORG will help develop a model for incorporating privacy and ethics in Internet of Things design and development.


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December 31, 2016 | Jim Killock

Digital rights in 2016

2016 has been a year to remember or possibly one to forget! Political upheaval and celebrity deaths aside, what did 2016 mean for digital rights? It was the year when....

Theresa May got her snoopers' charter

While politicians, the media and public were distracted by Brexit, the UK parliament passed the most extreme surveillance law in a democracy – the Investigatory Powers Act (IPA). ORG fought hard to limit its severe measures but only the Lib Dems, Greens and SNP suggested serious amendments, which the Tories and Labour rejected.

But the Courts say it needs to be rewritten

In 2014, ORG intervened in a case about data retention brought by the MPs Tom Watson and David Davis. ORG argued that blanket data retention contravened the protections set out in a previous Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) judgment. These arguments – including the unlawfulness of blanket retention – won the day and were accepted by the court. Last week, the CJEU stated, among other things, that blanket data retention is not permissible. This means that the Government is going to have to change the IPA or face another legal challenge. The fightback begins!

The Government decided it wanted to block porn

The Digital Economy Bill, which is currently going through parliament, will compel porn sites to verify that their users are over 18. The proposals, which don’t include privacy protections, are largely unworkable because foreign porn sites could refuse to comply. Undeterred, the Government has now proposed to force ISPs to block sites that don’t apply age verification – potentially blocking thousands of legal websites in the UK. And just last week, they confirmed that Twitter accounts that link to blocked websites could also be blocked.

ORG is working to get the Government to amend the Digital Economy Bill so that privacy rights are protected. Over 18,000 people have already signed our petition against web blocking and this is going to be one of our big fights in 2017.

Admiral's app was sunk 

Admiral Insurance thought it would be a good idea to offer first time drivers discounts in return for analysing their Facebook feeds. ORG raised awareness in the media and Facebook clarified that this was a breach of their Platform policy and blocked Admiral's app.

There are real risks in allowing the financial or insurance industry to base financial decisions on our social media activity. ORG will continue to raise awareness when companies try to do this.

Prison sentences were proposed for file sharers 

Earlier in the year, almost 1,000 ORG supporters wrote to the Intellectual Property Office to say no to proposals that could see people who commit online copyright infringement getting ten-year prison sentences. Despite this opposition, the proposals still appeared in the Digital Economy Bill. However, we’re working with Labour to amend the wording of the law so that such sentences will only be given to those guilty of serious copyright infringement.

Net Neutrality was protected

This summer, ORG supporters along with Internet users from across Europe secured some the the strongest net neutrality protections in the world. BEREC, the Body of European Regulators of Electronic Communications, set strong guidelines on how European net neutrality rules should be enforced by national telecoms regulators like Ofcom in the UK. We'll be keeping an eye out for potential net neutrality violations in the UK over 2017 and beyond.

The UK voted to leave Europe

After the UK voted to leave the European Union, we warned that there would be major consequences for digital rights as many European laws apply.  We still don't know what shape Brexit will take but this should become clearer in 2017 and will be something that massively affects our work.

Data protection should get better

The European Union passed the General Data Proection Regulation (GDPR) in April this year. ORG, EDRi and other digital rights groups had argued for stronger data protection laws for the last five years. Along with the European Parliament, we worked to stop industry efforts to water the proposals down. When it enters force in 2018, it will give people new rights, including the right to get an electronic copy of your data, to delete your data, and to object to automatic decisions that affect your rights. Companies will also face bigger fines if they breach the law. Despite Brexit, the UK Government has confirmed that it will enact the proposals in the GDPR – largely because it would otherwise damage UK business interests. 

The European Commission proposed filtering the Internet 

The European Commission published its draft Copyright Directive, which included plans to force Internet companies to ‘filter’ everything we upload in case it infringes copyright laws. This would have a massive impact on how we all use the Internet as photos, songs, images, and even memes, could be checked and censored as copyright violations. Over 3,000 ORG supporters wrote to the IPO about these plans and we will continue to challenge them in 2017.

We were all Trumped

“If there were a crisis in the relationship between the UK and the US, what risks would our shared intelligence arrangements pose?” We asked this question in our 2015 report about the Snowden leaks. We might be about to find out the answer. The Snowden documents show that Britain’s GCHQ and America’s NSA work very closely together. They are integrated in a way that means it is difficult for our Parliament to hold GCHQ to account. 

We rely so much on US technology and data that it poses questions for our sovereignty. Is sharing of UK citizens’ 'bulk data' with a Trump government safe? Will Trump threaten the UK with the removal of key technologies, if our government steps out of line? Will he push the UK into taking ever greater risks and intrusions as the price for this close relationship?

Oversight of this state of dependency between the UK and USA is woeful in the UK. If we want our future to be safe, this is time to rethink how surveillance is governed and overseen. 

Thank you from ORG

A special thanks to our local group organisers in Aberdeen, Bristol, Birmingham, Cambridge, Cardiff, Leeds, London, Manchester and the North East who have put on some excellent events this year. Thank you to everyone who signed a petition, emailed their MP, tweeted about us, came to an event or followed us on social media. 

Please do consider joining ORG and helping us to fight for your rights in 2017.

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