Supporter Newsletter

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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November 30, 2016 | Charlie Tunmore

Supporter Newsletter: November 2016

This month's newsletter looks at the Govenment's plan to censor thousands of legal adult websites and what we are doing to oppose these proposals. We also explain how we are going to fight the Govenment's decision to pass the IP Act, the most extreme surveillance law in UK history. As always, we cannot do this work without your support. The next few years will be some of the most difficult and important we have had yet.

MPs vote for a national censor

Amendments to the Digital Economy Bill were accepted by MPs during its third reading on Monday. This will mean that the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) in its new role can instruct Internet Service Providers to block access to thousands of porn websites that don’t verify the age of their users, even though their content is legal in the UK. This could affect millions of people. In addition, sites that are not sanctioned must obey the regulator’s instructions and censor what is deemed unacceptable. 

The BBFC has indicated that porn websites must censor ‘non-conventional sex acts’ that are unclassified in the UK. This could include whipping that causes marks, female ejaculation, acts involving urination and sex during menstruation. 

Executive Director, Jim Killock said: “In the short term, this is likely to disproportionately affect sexual minorities. However, there are wider implications for free speech. Once this administrative power to block websites is in place, it will invariably be used to censor other content. MPs have already asked why other material that is unsuitable for children is not being censored.” 

More than 13,000 people have signed our petition calling for Parliament to reject these plans. We need to make this campaign as big as possible if we're going to stop this. Please sign and share the petition against the censorship of legal adult content.

Investigatory Powers Act is UK's most extreme surveillance law

On Tuesday, the Investigatory Powers Bill became the Investigatory Powers Act as it was given royal assent. As Executive Director Jim Killock told the Guardian, this means the UK has “one of the most extreme surveillance laws ever passed in a democracy”. In recent weeks, over 145,000 people have signed a Parliament petition calling for the IP Act to be repealed. This means that Parliament needs to consider debating it, although it is unlikely to limit these powers. However, the courts might be more successful in restraining mass surveillance.  

A ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union, expected next year, may mean that parts of the Bill are shown to be unlawful and need to be amended. ORG intervened in this case and will work with other organisations to support other legal challenges. We also have an ongoing case about the UK's surveillance regime at the European Court of Human Rights.

Facebook is right to sink Admiral's app

On the day before Admiral tried to launch Firstcarquote, their application’s permission to use Facebook data was revoked by the social media site. According to Admiral young people could offer up their Facebook posts in the hope of getting a reduction in their car insurance. However, their application has been found to be in breach of Facebook's Platform policy section 3.15.

There are significant risks in allowing the financial or insurance industry to base assessments on our social media activity. Whether intentional or not, algorithms could perpetuate social biases that are based on race, gender, religion or sexuality. Will we start self-censoring our social media out of fear that we will be judged a high risk at some point in the future? It is sensible for Facebook to continue to restrict these activities, despite patents indicating that they may themselves wish to monetise Facebook data in this kind of way. 

Admiral’s application shows a lack of understanding of the risks and responsibilities in parts of the financial industry. If this disregard is symptomatic, it may point to a need for sector specific privacy legislation for the financial industry, to further protect consumers from abuse through use of inappropriate or unreliable data. 

Donald Trump will exert a great deal of control over GCHQ’s operations

“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. 

No one expects spam for Christmas

Debenhams, Topshop, Argos and Next are just some of the High Street shops that have started to offer their customers e-receipts when they pay for goods. 

But according to a Daily Mail investigation, many of these shops could be breaking data protection law because they are failing to give customers the full picture of how their email addresses are being used. In some instances, this could be a lack of training for staff on the tills. However, it’s clear that shops see e-receipts as an opportunity to gather data about their customers.

This kind of email collection is not just taking place in shops. ORG was recently contacted by Nullig who was bombarded with unsolicited marketing emails after she bought something over the phone from Debenhams. The law is very clear. At the point that email addresses are collected, customers need to be given 'a simple means of refusing' any future direct marketing emails. Find out what you can do to stop the spam.

Quick Fire News

TfL needs to give passengers the full picture on WiFi collection scheme
Transport for London is running a trial that uses people's mobile phones to track crowd movement around 54 London Underground stations. We think they have to do a better job of communicating to passengers what the trial is, what the data will be used for, and how people can opt out.

5 minute explainer: Government plans to censor adult content

We sat down with security expert Alec Muffett to talk about how the UK Government plans to block adult content.

ORG Birmingham event round up
Read Francis Clark's (Local Organiser for ORG Birmingham) Mozilla Maker Party event round up to find out how EU plans for copyright threaten creativity and free expression.

ORG out and about

ORG Cambridge: Digital rights meet up
Tuesday 6th December, 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 Manchester: Christmas social
Thursday 8th December, 7pm - 9pm
Join ORG Manchester for their joint Christmas social with Manchester No2ID.
120 Grosvenor St, 
M1 7HL

ORG Birmingham: Christmas social
Monday 12th December, 6pm - 9pm
Join ORG Birmingham for their joint Christmas social with NetSquared Midlands for a chance to talk to people who care about digital rights.
Hennesseys Bar,
30-31 Allison St, 
B5 5TJ

ORG London: Come to a presentation on data-collection apps
Wednesday 21st December, 7pm - 9pm
Academic Jennifer Pybus will be holding a presentation on a recent hack day she led, where her students created an app that showed how advertisers collected data.
Newspeak House,
133-135 Bethnal Green Road, 
E2 7DG 

ORG Aberdeen: Cryptonoise: how to protect your self online
Thursday 29th December, 7pm - 9pm
Join ORG Aberdeen to discuss digital freedoms and explore the use of cryptographic tools. Take a smartphone or laptop and browse the web anonymously, learn about these technologies and chat about the reasons we need them.
57 North Hacklab,
35a Union Street, 
AB11 5BN

ORG staff news

Jim Killock, will do an AMA (ask me anything) on Reddit this Thursday at 2pm GMT. Jim will be answering questions on the Investigatory Powers Act, the Digital Economy Bill and how we fight for digital rights in the UK.

Jim Killock attended the Mapping Second General Assembly conference on managing alternatives for privacy, property and Internet governance in Prague.

Corporate sponsors

We’d like to thank our latest Corporate Sponsor LCHost, for their generous support.


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October 31, 2016 | Charlie Tunmore

Supporter Newsletter: October 2016

This month we have been campaigning on the Digital Economy Bill, giving evidence to the UK government about our concerns, and creating a series of videos explaining what needs to change in the Bill. We have also been continuing to challenge the Investigatory Powers Bill in the House of Lords. Thank you for helping to inform our work and carrying out our campaigns to ensure that our rights to privacy and free speech online are protected.


Censorship and porn tracking threats in the Digital Economy Bill 

The new Digital Economy Bill has three worrying proposals.

Age verification and privacy threats

The Bill would compel pornography websites to verify the age of their users, without saying how it will guarantee their privacy and anonymity. The proposals are so bad that we are warning that they could lead to 'Ashley Madison' style data leaks

There are serious free expression concerns as well. Small independent porn companies are more likely to be affected by the proposals. Adults may also be deterred from accessing pornography because they are worried that they are being tracked. 

ORG's Executive Director Jim Killock criticised
 the lack of privacy safeguards when giving evidence to the Bill Committee. Since, Labour's Louise Haigh has tabled an amendment, which we support, to create duties to regulate the privacy and security of the system.

However, some MPs want to add website blocking of completely legal content, to reinforce the age verification system, which they fear won't work on its own. This could lead to the censorship of thousands of websites.

Data sharing without privacy safeguards

These proposals to make it easier for government departments to share data with one another without sufficient safeguards. These proposals are in such terrible shape that even the government is having to table amendments to patch them up. 

We provided very detailed analysis of what needs to be fixed - and MPs seem to be listening.

Ten year prison sentence for online copyright infringement

These sentences apply to anyone who fails to pay a licence fee or creates a "risk of loss". Unfortunately, that is most kinds of ordinary copyright infringement, such as file sharing. This will aid copyright trolls to send threatening letters. Labour's Kevin Brennan explained our concerns to the Bill Committee.

Find out more about the DE Bill on the campaign hub on our website. You can also read the written evidence we submitted to the committee scrutinising the Bill.

Lords fail to amend the Investigatory Powers Bill 

The IP Bill has been debated by the House of Lords and despite the best efforts of ORG and the Don't Spy on Us coalition, the Labour Lords failed to amend the IP Bill and didn't support the Lib Dems' proposals. As ORG's Executive Director, Jim Killock told the Guardian, “Labour did not table any serious amendments to this draconian legislation in the House of Lords. Labour is simply failing to hold the government to account.” 

The new shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott has also called the Bill “draconian” and we will work to persuade Labour MPs to say no to the Bill when it goes back to the House of Commons for a final vote. After that our next step will be to look at how the Bill can be challenged through the courts. We are still waiting for the Court of Justice of the European Union's Judgment on the legality of the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIPA). ORG intervened in this case, which will have implications for the IP Bill and for any future legal action that ORG might take.


We're looking for people to help us find and report websites that are incorrectly blocked by web filters. It's been two years, since we launched Blocked, a tool that let's you check whether any website is censored by filters. Since then, we've heard from bloggers, charities and businesses who have been baffled to find that their sites have been blocked. Despite the serious problem with overblocking, we believe that the Government is going to legislate this autumn to allow companies to switch on filters by default after a new EU regulation will make this illegal. 

We're planning to oppose this and we want to use evidence of overblocking to support our case. We've adapted the Blocked tool so we can search for blocked sites by category. We will launch this properly next month but if you would like to help us, please get in touch.

Opposing schools' collection of nationality data

ORG has joined the Against Borders for Children coalition, which is calling for the Department for Education to end its policy of collecting country of birth and nationality information from children in England. This information is stored in the National Pupil Database (NPD), which can be accessed by journalists, government departments and other organisations.

A Freedom of Information request by defenddigitalme showed that the Home Office accessed the NPD 18 times between April 2012 and July 2016 for immigration enforcement purposes. We don't believe that schools should gather information about children to be used against their families.

If you are a parent, there's more information here about what you can do to protect your child's data. The House of Lords will vote on the new country of birth and nationality data collection next Monday, October 31 and there's more information here about how you can get involved.


Quick Fire News

ORG Birmingham event round up
Read Francis Clark's (Local Organiser for ORG Birmingham) #SaveOurSources event round up to find out about how the Snoopers Charter threatens press freedoms.

New ORG Cardiff Local Organiser
Rob Lewis has recently become the new Local Organiser for ORG Cardiff! Rob is a journalist, author and a political activist. He is also studying for a law degree, with a personal focus on Article 8 of the ECHR.

ORG staff news

This month we welcomed Julie Dahle, our new campaigns intern. Julie is a third year politics and international relations student. Previously, she had been involved in politics and union work in Norway, involving campaigning and organising.

ORG out and about

ORG Cambridge: Digital rights meet up 
Tuesday 1st November, 7pm - 9pm
Join ORG Cambridge for the 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 month.
The Castle Inn,
38 Castle Street, 

ORG London: Digital Dystopias: Orwell's 1984 and the Internet Age
Monday 7th November, 7pm - 9pm
Join ORG London for a session on surveillance and totalitarianism in literature, and how the nightmarish world of George Orwell's '1984' can still be seen as relevant for the digital age. 
Newspeak House,
133-135 Bethnal Green Road,
E2 7DG

ORG Manchester: Festival of Social Science: digital activism
Friday 11th November, 10am - 4pm
Join ORG Manchester for a great opportunity to discover how new technologies are changing our communities. With talks from local campaign groups, technologists and academics.
36-40 Edge Street,
M4 1HN 

ORG North East: CryptoParty: how to protect yourself online
Saturday 12th November, 1:30pm - 3:30pm
CryptoParties are a great way for anyone to learn how to install and use tools to help secure their online communications. Join ORG North East to learn why we need to use these tools.
Newcastle City Library,
Charles Avison Building,
33 New Bridge Street West, Newcastle upon Tyne, 

Corporate Supporters

We’d like to thank our latest Corporate Sponsor Webarchitects, for their generous support.


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July 20, 2016 | Margarida Silva

Supporter Newsletter: July 2016

The political events of the last month, including the referendum and appointment of a new Prime Minister, could have a major effect on digital rights in the UK. We continued campaigning against the IP Bill in House of Lords, responded to the European net neutrality consultation and are preparing our response to the new Digital Economy Bill. All of this while exploring the potential consequences of Brexit for digital rights. As always, we cannot do this work without your support. The next years will be some of the most difficult and important we have had yet.

Challenge to DRIPA in the CJEU

Yesterday the Advocate General of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) published his opinion on the UK’s Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIPA). The advocate said that data retention may be compatible with EU law but can only be used to fight serious crime and under strict safeguards. The opinion also supports ORG’s claim that EU law should apply when it comes to data retention and that member states should limit their interference with our fundamental rights to what is strictly necessary. 

Most importantly, he reiterated that independent authorisation of requests for data is vital to making any data retention regime compatible with privacy rights and EU law. DRIPA and the IP Bill lack this requirement. You can read ORG's analysis here

The CJEU is being asked to clarify if its 2014 ruling that struck down the EU’s Data Retention Directive would apply to the national data retention programmes as well. After that ruling in the Digital Rights Ireland case, many EU countries stopped their national programmes. The UK, instead, rushed DRIPA through Parliament. MPs Tom Watson and David Davis brought a legal challenge and the British High Court decided that parts of DRIPA were unlawful. But the Government appealed and the case was referred to the CJEU.

This opinion is not binding – we still need to wait for the official judgment that is likely to be issued in September. DRIPA is set to expire at the end of December so the ruling could have little practical impact. However, this could be a crucial blow to the IP Bill, which extends data retention further by demanding internet service providers retain people’s Internet Connection Records.

As long as the UK is a member of the EU it will have to enforce EU law. But as DRIPA is set to expire, the Government could choose to ignore it and wait for a challenge to be made specifically against the IP Bill.

The upside is that once the ruling is made by the CJEU, we will have more clarity. This will mean any challenge to the IP Bill could be made more quickly, leaving the Government with less grounds for appeals.

ORG's response to the opinion was covered by several publication including the GuardianArs Technica and Fortune.

Post-Brexit political landscape

Last month’s referendum raises many concerns for the future of digital rights. In the short term, the legal and policy context does not change but the political situation has already changed dramatically.

Theresa May, our new Prime Minister, championed the IP Bill as the Home Secretary. Worryingly, she also showed public opposition to the European Court of Human Rights – which until recently she wanted to quit. As Prime Minister, her support for surveillance and measures that undermine human rights will at least be under much closer scrutiny, which could make it easier to create public debate.

There is also a new cabinet that, among other surprises, includes Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary. Johnson, along with new Home Secretary Amber Rudd, will be responsible for authorising surveillance warrants for the UK’s intelligence agencies, again raising the need for judicial oversight.

In the meantime, the Labour Party is going through an internal leadership contest. The majority of the Shadow Cabinet has resigned, including Keir Starmer MP who quit his role as Shadow Home Minister. He was previously responsible for scrutinising the IP Bill and has still not been replaced.

Brexit casts a long shadow over digital rights

There is a level of uncertainty over digital rights in the UK as most relevant legislation is guaranteed by the EU. Read ORG’s analysis of the different Brexit models, their consequences to digital rights and to the IP Bill

From any angle you look at it, Brexit is complex and we have only just started exploring its potential results. ORG will continue engaging in discussions with supporters and experts about it and how to approach these changes.

Whatever happens, this is going to be a challenging time for digital rights. If you are not already a paying supporter, please consider joining ORG to help us ensure that our privacy and free speech rights are protected.

The IP Bill continues to make its way through Parliament

Considering the uncertainty caused by the referendum, ORG called on the Government to pause the progress of the IP Bill in Parliament to guarantee adequate scrutiny. The work continued nonetheless. Yesterday there was the last session of the IP Bill committee debate in the House of Lords.

For a detailed summary of the discussions, read ORG’s policy update from last week. 

We have continued campaigning against the Bill, working closely with Lords to amend it. With Don't Spy On Us we sent a public statement to the Lords signed by over 3,000 people. Thank you to everyone that took the time to sign it.

IP Bill work will slow down in August due to the Parliamentary recess. The next sitting is set to take place on the 5th and 7th September and the Bill will then move on to the Report stage in October.

We are already planning the next steps to raise the public’s concerns to peers and the new Home Secretary, including a Tweet a Lord campaign. ORG will also build on the CJEU opinion to demand that the Government responds adequately and reforms the IP Bill.

The new Digital Economy Bill

A new Digital Economy Bill has just been published covering a wide spectrum of topics that ORG works on – from mandatory age verification in porn, to raising file-sharing sentences to 10 years and extending government data sharing.

We published a first analysis of the overall Bill last month. For the upcoming weeks we will be looking into each section in more detail, evaluating the possible threats to digital rights and campaigning for a fairer Bill.

Net neutrality consultation

ORG made a submission to the European consultation on the new net neutrality rules. BEREC, the European telecommunications regulator – of which Ofcom is a member – is responsible for creating the guidelines to the text approved by the European Parliament. So far the rules are a step in the right direction but some areas of the text are still not clear and are open to abuse. Read our blog for an overview of the major concerns.

ORG joined the Save the Internet movement to ask BEREC to fix weaknesses in the provisions on specialised services, traffic management and zero rating. Over 500,000 citizens across Europe took part in this consultation. Thank you to all that answered the call.

We are now waiting for BEREC to publish its final guidelines, expected on the 30th August.

Quick Fire News

ORG is looking for a new supporter officer

I am sad to announce that I will be leaving ORG in August to move overseas. Let me take this opportunity to thank colleagues, supporters and organisers that made my time here so fulfilling and exciting.

This means that ORG is currently looking for a new supporter officer to engage with our dedicated membership of over 3000 people, and network of groups across the country. 

ORG Staff 

The rest of the team will take advantage of Parliamentary recess and enjoy well deserved holidays in August. The next newsletter will be published in September.

ORG out and about

July 28th, 6pm 

Join ORG Aberdeen to discuss digital freedoms and explore the use of cryptographic tools. Take a smartphone or laptop and browse the web anonymously, learn about these technologies and chat about the reasons we need them.
The Illicit Still

Netherkirkgate, Broad St
AB10 1AU

ORG Cambridge
August 2nd, 7pm 

Supporters in Cambridge are setting up a local group. If you are around, join their first meeting and sign up to the meetup page to keep updated.
The Castle Inn
38 Castle Street

Corporate Supporters

We’d like to thank our latest Corporate Supporter Paul A. Young, fine chocolates, for their generous support.


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April 29, 2016 | Margarida Silva

Supporter Newsletter: April 2016

It's been a busy couple of months: we've continued to challenge the Investigatory Powers Bill; launched the Opt Me Out of Location campaign; responded to a government consultation on sharing data and challenged DRIPA at the Court of Justice of the European Union. As ever, we couldn’t have done any of it without your support.

Investigatory Powers Bill latest

In March, the Home Office published the revised Investigatory Powers Bill, despite three parliamentary committees making 123 recommendations for changes in the preceding weeks. The Bill still puts into statute mass surveillance and hacking, with inadequate oversight.

Right now, the Bill is being scrutinised in another parliamentary committee. ORG has been working with the Don’t Spy On Us (DSOU) coalition to brief MPs on the committee about the reality of what the Bill would mean. We expect that the House of Commons will vote on the Bill at beginning of June.

Changing public opinion

As well as lobbying, we have several public-facing activities planned for the run up to the House of Commons vote. With DSOU, we are going to launch a national advertising campaign, that has been developed pro bono by a leading ad agency. The campaign, which will launch on May 10, was possible because of generous donations from ORG and Don't Spy on Us supporters. 

We are currently £7,780 short of our target, which would enable us to place ads in national newspapers and on a 30ft billboard. If you can spare any money, please help us to increase the reach of this campaign :

A few weeks after, ORG will launch its own campaign video. We hope that it will raise even more awareness of the threats to our privacy from surveillance – putting even more pressure on MPs in the run up to the vote.

Opt me out of location campaign launched

In April, we published a report Cashing in on Your Mobile, showing how most of the largest UK mobile phone companies sell analytics services to third parties based on tracking our location, consumption, behaviour and demographics.

We also launched the campaign Opt Me Out of Location, jointly with privacy friendly startup Krowdthink, to expose how telecoms companies use our location data. Nearly 93% of UK citizens have unknowingly been opted into having their location data tracked by default by their mobile operators and public Wi-Fi providers. These companies are collecting and trading this data without properly informing their customers. 

We are encouraging users to opt out of location tracking and pressure mobile operators to be clear about what data they collect and how they use it. In the next weeks, we are going to look into the responses received from the companies and see whether we can make a complaint to the Information Commissioners’ Office (ICO).

Opt me out of location generated press coverage in the Guardian, the RegisterIT Pro and other outlets.

Better Data in Government Consultation

Last week we submitted our response to the Government’s proposals to extend data sharing across public bodies and a few private entities. We welcome that the Government has considered several recommendation made by civil society organisations. However, there are still potential threats to citizens’ privacy.

In our response, we highlighted the need to impose stronger safeguards, more transparency and accountability to the entire process. We urged the Government to completely exclude plans to set up a database of people in debt as this could lead to targeted punitive measures and the stigmatisation of the most vulnerable. Plus, plans for this database were introduced too late in the process. This was also true for plans for bulk sharing birth, marriage and death data, which we also oppose as they strongly resemble rejected proposals for ID cards.

We want to thank all of you that used ORG’s tool to tell the Government we are concerned about these plans. We are now waiting for the conclusions drawn from the consultation process.

ORG at the CJEU

In April we presented our intervention against the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIPA) at the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). Together with Privacy International, ORG argued that DRIPA violates citizens’ right to privacy and highlighted the overwhelming lack of safeguards against abuses. The Law Society also raised concerns about how it affects legal professional privilege. Once again, the UK government presented the argument that it “cannot know in advance what data is necessary and valuable” and thus must retain everything.

This was the first session of the CJEU on the legal challenge to DRIPA championed by Conservative MP David Davis and Labour Deputy Leader Tom Watson. The Court is being asked to clarify if DRIPA – and a similar policy proposed by the Swedish government – have to adhere to the conditions set out in the 2014 CJEU ruling which stated that the then EU Data Retention Directive interfered with citizens’ rights to privacy and data protection.

The Advocate General will publish his legal non-binding opinion on the 19 July 2016 and the Judge’s ruling will follow. This case will have a tremendous impact on the IP Bill as it could insist on limits and safeguards to domestic UK proposals for retaining and accessing Internet Connection Records.

Ten year jail terms for file-sharing

The Government has decided to go ahead and raise jail terms for file sharing to up to 10 years, ignoring the overwhelming negative response to their consultation, mostly led by ORG supporters.

We don’t yet know how the offence will be amended but the government has said they will address our concerns, which centred on the test of prejudicially affecting the copyright owner and proper safeguards protecting those who infringe copyright without intent.

ORG has called for further clarification from the Intellectual Property Office.

Quick Fire News

Changing campaign and mailing list supplier
We are moving away from Engaging Networks as our provider of campaign and communications management. Instead, we will be using More Onion for email and petition campaign management and CleverReach for our mailing lists. These services are based in Austria and Germany respectively.

Meet ORG's new staff members
In March we welcomed Myles Jackman, our new legal director. Myles will be leading ORG’s Privacy not Prism challenge at the European Court of Human Rights and our intervention in the CJEU case against DRIPA.

Our latest addition is Margarida Silva who has joined the team as Supporter Officer. She will be the contact person for supporters and ORG's local groups. 

Want to save Net Neutrality?
The campaign is hiring a writer/campaigner for Net Neutrality. 

ORG out and about

Hacking, May 28th, 10.30am 
Join us on May 28 for a day of Blocked! project planning. It will a full day of talks and workshops covering everything from upcoming policy developments, academic and campaigning uses for the data to software development.
Mozilla Space
Covent Garden

Corporate Supporters

We’d like to thank our latest Corporate Supporters Open Data ServicesF-SecureAutomatticGreenNet and IVPN for their generous support.


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January 18, 2016 | Ruth Coustick-Deal

Supporter Newsletter: January 2016

We’ve only been back from our Christmas holidays a couple of weeks, and it’s amazing how much we’ve packed in. We’ve had several victories on long and short-term campaigns: thank you for all that you’ve done to make these happen!

Ray Bradbury's Error 451 is here

In many countries, including the UK, specific websites are blocked by court orders. These websites disappear without transparency; no information about who blocked them, or why, or who requested it – just a lack of access.

Now there is a new error code (like error 404): '451 - unavailable for legal reasons' to give this information. The Internet Engineering Taskforce approved this code as a draft in late December, and Wordpress (who make up one quarter of the web) have just implemented it.

It’s a real testament to the digital rights community that is happening: Tim Bray made the proposal to the IETF; ORG, with volunteer legal help and your crowd funding analysed and published court orders, exposing the levels of censorship in blocking, and campaigning on how the code could be used; Article19 worked hard with the IETF to push for the draft.

Together we have made a change to structure of the Internet!

Victory on jail for file-sharing

Many of you used our tool to take part in the Government's consultation which proposed 10 year prison sentences for copyright infringement earlier last year. We argued that this punishment treated users who share links and files online more harshly than ordinary, physical infringement and did not recognise the differences between physical and online.

The Government has now published their response and it revealed that 98 percent of respondents also thought the sentence would be too harsh, with the vast majority of people answering through our tool.

Thanks to people like you, the Government have halted their plans in order to have a rethink. 

Ex-NSA Director Speaks Out

ORG and the other members of the Don’t Spy on Us coalition met with Bill Binney during his visit to the UK. Bill Binney, is the ex-technology director of the NSA, and a whistle-blower. This is a key voice to be heard in the surveillance debate.

He spoke to the Joint Committee analysing the Investigatory Powers Bill and gave them his powerful evidence and experience explaining that mass surveillance, “has cost lives in Britain because it inundates analysts with too much data”.

Whilst here Bill Binney also recorded a 3-part interview in our office, called "Why mass surveillance costs lives" which you can watch here.

Standing up for encryption

Last week we joined the Secure the Internet coalition and nearly 200 organisations worldwide, from Apple to EFF, in writing to government leaders demanding they support strong encryption and to reject any law, policy, or mandate that would undermine digital security.

ORG followed on this strong momentum and joined together with otherDon't Spy on Us members to demand that Theresa May not weaken encryption in the new Bill. We urged her to state clearly that the Investigatory Powers Bill will not undermine security.

As France has just agreed to reject backdoors we will keep fighting for the UK to step up and make the same pledge.

IPB Indiegogo funded

Our crowded funded Indiegogo reached over its target! With your help we have raised £20, 624 to produce a high-quality campaign video and website to highlight the importance of privacy and rolling back mass surveillance.

We had our first meeting this week with our team of professional film-makers to get started on producing a script, and you'll hear from us more on this very soon.

Thank you very much for helping make it happen!

Quick Fire News

Scrambling for safety
On January 7th we worked with Julian Huppert and Professor Ross Anderson, to support the seventh Scrambling for Safety conference which debated the Investigatory Powers Bill.

The event brought together different groups interested in surveillance policy for an open exchange of views, and information sharing. The live-stream of the event is available on our site.

ORG out and about

ORG-London, January 30th, 5pm
A trip to see Big Bang Data. which explores the joys and limits of our relationship with data.
Somerset House

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November 20, 2015 | Ruth Coustick-Deal

Supporter Newsletter: November 2015

This month our newsletter is focusing on the Investigatory Powers Bill, the new piece of surveillance legislation. We explain its content, context, and the campaign ahead.

Paris attack

We'd planned to send an email about the Investigatory Powers Bill earlier this week. After the horrific attacks on Friday, it just didn't feel right. We didn't really want to campaign or comment on surveillance in the UK.

But over the last couple of days, we've heard politicians call for the IPB to be fast tracked through Parliament and we’ve been asked what we think of this. We understand that people are rightly concerned about surveillance powers in the UK, but this is not the time to rush through legislation.

The Paris attacks were not just brutal murders but an assault on our freedom and liberty. We cannot let terrorists undermine our fundamental values through a knee-jerk reaction to these terrible events.

Interestingly, we appear to be in agreement with the Home Secretary, Theresa May who said this week:

'The draft Investigatory Powers Bill is a significant measure that we expect to stand the test of time. We do not want future Governments to have to change investigatory powers legislation constantly, so it is important that we get it right. It is therefore important that the Bill receives proper scrutiny and that it has support across the House, given the nature of it.'

So we're sending this email because it's important that we get on and scrutinise this Bill and speak out against that the parts that undermine our fundamental rights. As ever, we are going to need your help to do this.

What's the status of the IPB?

Although some politicians, like Lord Carlisle, called for the Investigatory Powers Bill to be fast-tracked this week, it is currently scheduled to still follow the proper process.

This means that there is an opportunity for the a full discussion about surveillance, the one we've been calling for these past years.

What happens next is that a committee of MPs and Lords will scrutinise the Bill. ORG will provide evidence to that Committee, and we’ll help you do so too.

When that stage is over, they will report in the new year with suggestions for changes to the Bill.

We then expect MPs to vote on the final version in spring. This is why it is important to start talking to them now; so they are aware of the concerns that their constituents have about the Bill, and to get them to pay attention to this huge piece of surveillance law.

Take action today!

The people scrutinising the law are not working in a bubble. They listen to colleagues and their leadership. They listen to the voices around them and how the public is thinking.

You can help influence them by asking your MP to talk to members of those committees. We all need to start talking to MPs now to get them thinking about the IPB. 

You can tell your MP why they should be concerned about the Bill here:

This is only the start of the campaign. We've already been talking to politicians and the media about the IPB. We met with Andy Burnham, Shadow Home Secretary and other Labour politicians this week to discuss our concerns.
In the coming months, we'll be working together with you to rip out the dangerous parts of this Bill. We can do this!  

What's in the Bill?

The Investigatory Powers Bill is a new law on surveillance that was presented to parliament in November 2015. Unlike the Communications Data Bill, the IPB covers both the police and security services’ powers.  

Key issues in the Bill  

-It clarifies the powers of security agencies to break into our laptops and mobile phones, including powers for mass hacking. The Bill also forces internet companies to help in hacking their customers.

-It forces Internet Service Providers to collect and keep a record of all the websites that their customers visit.

-It does not limit the mass surveillance revealed by Edward Snowden, but instead puts those abilities into law.

This includes powers of bulk collection and analysis of data collected by tapping Internet cables, ie. 'Tempora'.
We’ll be publishing a full briefing on the Bill to help you talk to your MP.

Our Birthday party

ORG has worked hard over the last 10 years to ensure that everyone’s rights are protected (You can see a whole timeline of our successes here).

Now we’re celebrating that history with a small party in London, and we’d love it if you could make it to celebrate with us! RSVP:

Date: November 27th
Time: 7.00 - 10.00pm
Location: Newspeak House, 133-135 Bethnal Green Road, E2 7DG, London
Cost: £5 Hear from an excellent speaker and enjoy some birthday cake at the brand new Newspeak House in Shoreditch for our 10th anniversary!

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