Supporter Newsletter

May 03, 2018 | Mike Morel

Newsletter: The spring of digital discontent

From Amber Rudd’s resignation and the Windrush scandal to GDPR and Cambridge Analytica, today’s headlines relate to digital rights more than ever. We’d like to send a huge THANK YOU to all our supporters who’ve contributed to the growing wave of engagement and action this year.

Windrush’s lesson for the Data Protection Bill

The Home Office destroyed the landing cards of people who moved to the UK, erasing vital evidence to prove their status as legal residents. The scandal cost Amber Rudd her job, yet the Gov is about to make the same mistake for digital records. The new Data Protection Bill contains an Immigration Exemption, which would remove people’s rights to access their own data if it “would prejudice effective immigration control". This spells disaster for millions of EU nationals living in the UK required to apply for a new immigration status after Brexit. ORG is teaming up with the3million to challenge the Exemption in court if it becomes law. Meanwhile over a thousand ORG activists have told their MPs to oppose the Exemption. If you haven’t already, help prevent a digital repeat of the Windrush scandal!

Age verification technology consultation closes

Over 500 ORG supporters submitted detailed responses to the BBFC’s public consultation on age verification! Born of the 2017 Digital Economy Act’s requirement that pornographic websites must verify UK internet users are over 18 years, AV technology will create highly sensitive repositories of the public’s porn watching habits. Thanks to supporters like you, the BBFC were told in no uncertain terms that privacy must be a priority and not an afterthought for age verification. Read ORG’s most recent blog on AV, or our full 22-page consultation response here.

What is the Digital Charter?

From Bristol and Oxford to Leeds and Edinburgh, ORG’s local groups across the UK held a series of public events about new threats to free speech posed by the Government’s Digital Charter. ORG’s concerns include proposals for harsh fines on social media companies that fail to takedown extremist content within two hours because they will increase reliance on algorithmic filters to control what we see and say online. You can still sign our petition to Prime Minister May and the Home Office opposing this and other problems with the Digital Charter.

More filters, more problems

Our MEPs will vote on the EU’s Copyright Directive soon. If Article 13 passes into law, an algorithmic upload filter will decide whether the content you upload is seen or blocked. Filters 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. From academics and journalists to casual videos that happen to have a popular song in the background, Article 13's upload filter would impact professional and ordinary content creators alike. There is still time to tell your MEPs that Article 13 is a terrible idea.


  1. ORG Policy Director Javier Ruiz and Legal Director Myles Jackman attended the House of Lords to give evidence to the Communications Committee on possible future paths for internet regulation. You can watch the livestream here.

  2. The UK High Court made an important ruling on Liberty’s challenge to the Investigatory Powers Act. ORG Legal Officer Alex Haydock explains the merits and limits of the ruling.

  3. Watch ORG Scotland Director Matthew Rice tell Victoria Derbyshire why the Data Protection Bill should be amended:


ORG Aberdeen: Cryptonoise

Discuss digital rights issues that are in the news. Learn how you can help to protect your rights in a digital world. Bring a smartphone or laptop and browse the web anonymously, learn about these technologies and chat about the reasons we need them.

Thursday May 31st 6-9pm

57North Hacklab

35a Union Street, Aberdeen AB11 5BN 

ORG Norwich: Free speech event planning session

The focus of this meeting will be on final preparations for our publicity stall at Hayhill on Saturday 12th May.

Thursday May 3rd 7-9pm


21 Colegate, Norwich NR3 1BN


[Read more]

March 29, 2018 | Caitlin Bishop

Supporter Newsletter: March 2018

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

Cambridge Analytica

Easily the biggest story from this month has been revelations around the relationship between Cambridge Analytica and Facebook. Facebook’s dubious understanding of consent has led to an understandable sense of betrayal - leading to calls for people to #deleteFacebook. 

If you want to delete your account, our Legal Officer Alex Haydock has contributed some tips here. Or if you don’t want to delete just yet but do want to better manage your relationship with Facebook tactical tech have some useful tips here.

Revelations are still continuing to emerge about the scandal, but there is one thing the government can do fairly quickly - and that is adopt Article 80(2) in the Data Protection Bill.

As it stands if your data was given to Dr Aleksandr Kogan through your friend’s use of an app, you have to know that that has happened, and then instruct an organisation like ORG to act on your behalf. If the government implement Article 80 (2) - then organisations will be able to challenge bad data protection practices without first being instructed.

This won’t resolve these issues, but it is a valuable first step.

Age Verification Delayed and Consultation opens

This month brought the good news that implementation of age verification is being delayed until ‘by the end of the year’, in order to give the BBFC time to consult on their guidance for AV. It is deeply concerning to us that the delay came just two weeks before implementation was supposed to happen. It has been apparent for a long time that AV would not be ready in time, but the Government kept pushing ahead until the very last minute.

The BBFC’s consultation is now open, you can find it here - ORG will be issuing a response to the consultation as soon as possible, along with guidance for you if you want to respond.

The deadline to respond is 23 April 2018.


Today is the last day of the Scottish Government’s consultation on e-voting! Over the past month over 100 of you have told the government exactly what you think of e-voting.

E-voting fails the fundamental tests for any electoral system - it is not secure, anonymous, verifiable, and it falls down in terms of public trust. Here at ORG we’ve been working hard to make our concerns clear to members of parliament in both Scotland and Wales, asking them to drop their proposals for e-voting!

Quick Fire News

The Independent Advisory Group on the Use of Biometric Data in Scotland have produced their report, you can read it here

Christopher Wylie, former Research Director for Cambridge Analytica, gave some shocking evidence to the Parliamentary inquiry into fake news - you can watch here

We, along with Privacy International and 26 other privacy organisations, sent an open letter urging European governments to strengthen privacy protections in the new ePrivacy reform - find out more here

ORG: Out and About

ORG Glasgow: Monthly Meet-Up

Join ORG Glasgow and Paul Mason to discuss the GDPR, and an event they are planning in May!

Thursday, April 5, 2018

6:30 PM to 8:00 PM

ORG Leeds: Modern Threats to Free Speech Online

Could new plans to make Britain "the safest place in the world to be online" have unintended consequences? Hear from ORG campaigns manager Mike Morel and legal officer Alex Haydock about how the Government is working with social media companies to decide acceptable standards for online content

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

7:00 PM to 8:30 PM

ORG Edinburgh: Modern Threats to Free Speech Online

Learn how heavy fines encourage the use of not-so-smart filters that can silence free speech, and how murky definitions of 'harmful content' give social media companies unprecedented control over free expression. No experience is necessary to attend this FREE event.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

7:00 PM to 8:30 PM

We’re pleased to announce 5 new wonderful corporate supporters:

  • London Trust Media/ Private Internet Access

  • Paul A Young Chocolatier

  • LC hosts

  • Ravex

  • Open Data Services Cooperative

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]

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

[Read more]

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


[Read more]

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.

[Read more]

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.



[Read more]

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.

[Read more]

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.

[Read more]