Supporter Newsletter

September 05, 2017 | Mike Morel

Supporter Newsletter: September 2017

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

ORGCon 2017

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

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

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

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

We hope to see you there!

Data Protection Bill

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

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

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

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

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

Online hate crimes

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

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

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

Facial recognition tech at Notting Hill Carnival

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

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

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

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

Quick Fire News

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

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

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

ORG out and about

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

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

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

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

New Corporate Supporter

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



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July 06, 2017 | Charlie Tunmore

Supporter Newsletter: July 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Shape the future of ORG Scotland's local groups

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

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

The UK Government should protect encryption not threaten it

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don't Spy On Us coalition has ended

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

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

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


Quick Fire News

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

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

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

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


ORG out and about

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

38 Castle Terrace,
Edinburgh, EH3 9DZ

ORG Cambridge: 
Wikileaks documentary

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

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

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

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

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

Cosmopolitan Hotel,
Lower Briggate, 
Leeds, LS1 4AE

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

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

ORG Birmingham: 
De-Google-ify your life!

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

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

Corporate supporters

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

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March 30, 2017 | Charlie Tunmore

Supporter Newsletter: March 2017

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

Spy law would criminalise journalists

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

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

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

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

Rudd attacks encryption

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

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

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

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

Wikileaks latest 

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

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

Stop DEBill censorship 

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

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

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

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

Quick Fire News

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

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

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

Digital Economy Bill briefing to the House of Lords report stage

Read ORG's concerns over the Bill.

ORG out and about

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

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

Ship Street,
BN1 1AF,

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

Lower Briggate, 
LS1 4AE, 

ORG staff news

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

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

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

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February 02, 2017 | Charlie Tunmore

Supporter Newsletter: February 2017

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

New government jobs

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

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

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


Don't let Trump get his hands on our data

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

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

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

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


Whatsapp security

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

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

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

Lords Committee slams data sharing powers in Digital Economy Bill

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

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

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

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

Quick fire news

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

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

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

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

ORG out and about

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

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

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

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

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

ORG staff news

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


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December 31, 2016 | Jim Killock

Digital rights in 2016

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

Theresa May got her snoopers' charter

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

But the Courts say it needs to be rewritten

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

The Government decided it wanted to block porn

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

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

Admiral's app was sunk 

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

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

Prison sentences were proposed for file sharers 

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

Net Neutrality was protected

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

The UK voted to leave Europe

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

Data protection should get better

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

The European Commission proposed filtering the Internet 

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

We were all Trumped

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

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

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

Thank you from ORG

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

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

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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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