Supporter Newsletter

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.


[Read more]

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.


[Read more]

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

[Read more]

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!

[Read more]

September 25, 2015 | Ruth Coustick-Deal

Supporter Newsletter: September 2015

This month we've been preparing for the release of the Investigatory Powers Bill, responding to government reviews & speaking at conferences. We're not the only ones on it though, with MI5 giving their first ever live interview. However, this Bill is an opportunity for us to achieve a surveillance law that is transparent and proportionate. Help us campaign to make it happen!

MI5's first live interview

Last week was the first time someone from MI5 has given a live public interview. Speaking to Radio 4, the Director General of MI5, Andrew Parker, took this unusual step to call for a "modern and transparent" surveillance law, warned of terrorist attacks, and complained about how encryption was stopping them accessing the communications of people they believed to be terrorists.

Parker made the comments ahead of the publication of the draft Intelligence Powers Bill this autumn. A joint committee of MPs and peers will scrutinise the Bill over the winter, then MPs will start voting on it next spring.

ORG has been calling for a new law that will make sure that surveillance is necessary and proportionate. This is an opportunity for us to achieve that. However, we need to make sure that this new Bill does not instead increase the state’s surveillance powers - by for example increasing the scope of data that ISPs retain about us.

We are campaigning for an end to collect-it-all surveillance. We want surveillance to be targeted to those suspected of serious crime instead of storing everyone's data, all the time. We're also pushing for judicial authorisation instead of the ministerial sign-offs on warrants that we have at the moment.

Can you help us with our lobbying, campaigning, research and press work in the next few months? Join ORG for £5 a month to support our fight for digital freedoms.

ORG at Labour and Conservative Party Conferences

We will be holding events at both the Labour and Conservative Party Conferences. In Brighton on Tuesday 29th Septemberm Campaign Director of Don’t Spy On Us, Mike Harris will be talking about the upcoming Investigatory Powers Bill which is set to extend surveillance powers even further.

In Manchester on Monday 5th October, our Executive Director Jim Killock will be also be talking about the IPB and how we can stop it. Both events will include an interactive campaign workshop. They are completely free and open to the public!

Prison for file-sharers

The IPO ran a consultation this summer on proposals to increase the maximum prison sentence for criminal online copyright infringement to ten years.

They were aiming to match sanctions for online copyright infringement with physical copyright infringement —regardless of the platform used. While we agreed with their logic, in fact the proposals to risked punishing users who share links and files online more harshly than ordinary, physical theft.

We asked you to complete the consultation using our online tool, and over 1000 supporters responded!

Following this incredible response our Director Jim Killock was invited to meet with the IPO to further lay out our concerns. They have also promised to keep us informed of their decision-making, and we’ll keep you up to date with this campaign.

Do the Government reviews hold up?

Open Rights Group is a member of the Don’t Spy on Us coalition, which campaigns against the mass surveillance exposed by Edward Snowden. Since the launch of the DSOU campaign, the Government announced a series of major inquiries, in response to the public and civil society’s demand for greater transparency. These 3 reviews were carried out by the Intelligence and Security Committee, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation and the Royal United Services Institute.

DSOU has now published a report that compares these inquiries’ findings against the six DSOU principles: No surveillance without suspicion, transparent laws, not secret laws, judical not political authorisation, effective democratic oversight, the right to redress and a secure Internet for all.

Our report aims to help Parliamentarians assess whether the coming draft Investigatory Powers Bill, addresses the inquiries’ recommendations. It will be published next Tuesday.

Businesses support ORG

ORG has opened up its membership to businesses that support our aims and values. We are launching this new scheme today with Andrews &Arnold, Grit Digital and Valacato Hosting, and also Bytemark who have long-terme provided us with our web servers.

The focus of ORG’s work will always be the digital rights of individuals. But many businesses also benefit from our campaigns for fair laws, transparency and an open Internet. With their financial support, our campaigns can have even more of an impact. Getting the business perspective on Government policies and and technical developments will also help us to have more informed positions and responses.

Only businesses that support digital rights will be able to become ORG Corporate Supporters and we will not promote their products. But we will listen to their concerns and encourage them to get involved in our campaigns.

If your business or organisation is interested in joining ORG, please email for more information.

Local Groups Update

This month supporters in London and Birmingham organised fantastic meet ups. On Thursday 3rd September ORG Birmingham talked about the Snoopers’ Charter and how to win the argument against surveillance. In London on Monday 21st September, our group held Lightning Talks, a series of short talks from members on the theme of ‘Campaigning and Activism’.

We encourage you to find your local group or even set a new one up!

ORG out and about

ORG Brighton: Take Action Against Surveillance (Talk & Workshop) 29 September 7pm.
With the Campaign Director of Don’t Spy On Us, Mike Harris.
Ground Floor Auditorium
68 Middle Street, Brighton, BN1 1LA, Brighton

ORG Manchester: Episode V: The Snoopers' Charter Strikes Back! 5October 7pm
Hear Open Rights Group's Executive Director, Jim Killock on stopping the Snoopers' Charter and learn how to campaign against it in a workshop.
36-40 Edge Street, Manchester

ORG Bristol: Lets stop the Snoopers' Charter 11 October 3pm
Learn how to lobby your MP like a seasoned activist! Supporters in Bristol are running an interactive workshop using a special ORG campaign briefing on how to fight against the Snoopers' Charter.
Bristol Games Hub, 77 Stokes Croft BS1 3RD, Bristol

ORG London: Local politics 101, 19 October 7pm
What have you always wanted to know about local politics? What is the difference between a councillor and an MP? Find out these answers and more.
Newspeak House
133-135 Bethnal Green Road, E2 7DG, London

[Read more]

August 03, 2015 | Ruth Coustick-Deal

Supporter Newsletter: July 2015

It’s been a great month at Open Rights Group. Our intervention in the court case on DRIPA succeeded; we celebrated one year of Blocked; and we challenged threats to what you can photograph.

DRIPA Court case success

Last year the Government rushed through the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIPA). We knew it was a deliberate attempt to ignore the EU courts who had struck down the Data Retention Directive, and we promised you we would fight against it.

And now, after taking legal action, the High Court has ruled that DRIPA was indeed inconsistent with EU law.

The successful judicial review was brought by Liberty, represented by David Davis MP and Tom Watson MP, with ORG and Privacy International acting as intervenors together.

We argued that DRIPA was incompatible with the Court of Justice of the EU decision to strike down the Data Retention Directive. The Justices agreed and ruled that parts of DRIPA are unlawful. You can read more of about the judgment here.

Thanks again to all our supporters who made this happen!

One year of censorship monitoring

It’s been a year since we launched, a tool that lets people check whether websites are incorrectly blocked by filters. At its launch, we showed that around 1 in 5 sites were blocked by some kind of parental control. We knew that many of these websites posed no harm to children. Over the last year, we’ve heard from businesses, bloggers and charities whose sites have been censored. Many had no idea that this was happening and without they wouldn’t have been able to find out or get their websites unblocked.

The Government has also now acknowledged that overblocking is a problem, but they and the ISPs are underestimating how many sites are being affected. Filters don’t always work and relying on them can lull parents into a false sense of security.

Last week, the Prime Minister announced that he wanted to force porn sites to use age verification or to be shut down. But what the Blocked project has shown is that there are no simple tech solutions to social problems.

Freedom of Panorama defended

This month we asked you to help us protect outdoor photography and the ‘Freedom of Panorama’.

Freedom of Panorama is an exception to copyright, which means a work in a public place, (like a sculpture or a building) is allowed to be painted or photographed without permission.

The Julia Reda copyright report, which laid forward EU Parliment's proposals for copyright reform, included proposals for sharing the UK's Freedom of Panorama with EU states. However, some MEPs proposed an alternate version with an amendment that instead advocated removing our existing protections.

We were delighted that the European Parliament adopted Julia Reda’s copyright report – with the controversial proposal to restrict Freedom of Panorama taken out. Lots of you took action with us and sent your MEPs letters. We know that the strong public opinion made a huge difference on this, so thank you!

Encryption in danger in the UK

Since the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January, David Cameron and his Government have stated several times that authorities should be able to access encrypted data, so that there is no “safe space” for terrorists.

Even though the Government has yet to specify how it intends to circumvent encryption, Cameron's latest declaration at the end of June, sparked a huge outcry, with media reports that the Government was proposing to ban popular applications, such as Whatsapp.

Given that we need encryption for our everyday online transactions, we don't think the Government will 'ban' encrypted products. But other measures such as making backdoors mandatory would put the Government at odds with the position of companies, technology experts, as well as many Internet users. Last month, a United Nations' Special Rapporteur report stated that in the digital age, privacy and freedom of expression depend on encryption.

We will continue to campaign to protect encryption, and defend our ability to communicate privately and securely.

Caspar Bowden

We were saddened by the passing of respected privacy advocate and ORG Advisory Council member Caspar Bowden earlier this month.  Among his many contributions to ORG were a series of lectures he gave prior to the PRISM revelations, where he pointed out the holes in US legislation that could allow bulk collection and access to US corporations’ data vaults. At the time, he was pretty much the only person in Europe making these points, cogently and loudly.

Here's our blog post on his valuable work over the years. You can contribute to the Caspar Bowden Foundation here.

Local Groups News

It’s been an exciting month of growth for our local groups. Supporters in Birmingham have launched their own community of ORG enthusiasts! They are currently working with Young Rewired State to promote digital rights at the 2015 Festival of Code in Birmingham. They are already making great progress. Read more about what they’ve been up to here:

You can see all the upcoming local group events in the sidebar.

Find out if there is a group near you:

Quick Fire News

Open Rights Group's Policy Report is back! Every week we produce a report on what's happening in digital rights politics across UK & Europe. You can subscribe to this policy report here.

Challenging the Copyright Police. The City of London Police's Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) has been the subject of controversy for the last few years. In particular, they have been making take-down requests without a court order. We believe PIPCU need to strengthen their commitments to due process, independence and transparency. We have been in correspondence with Commander Head of PIPCU, stressing these concerns since they were founded. You can read our series of letters here.

ORG out and about

ORG-London: Expanding Blocked & Challenging Censorship Internationally Monday, August 10, 2015, 7pm - 9pm
Article 19 and ORG have teamed up to monitor censorship in Tunisia, Kenya and Bangladesh. This talk discusses the technology, the obstacles, and the different approaches we developed for each country.
Nomad Studio on 3rd Floor
119 Farringdon Road, London

ORG-Sheffield: Stop the Snoopers' Charter bouncing back!
Wednesday, August 26, 2015, 7pm - 9pm,
ORG Sheffield is running a free workshop where you can learn more about current surveillance laws and how you can win the argument against extending the powers of the police and GCHQ. Rutland Arms
Brown Street,
Sheffield - S1 2BS



ings Dock, Liverpool Waterfront, Merseyside L3 4FP - See more at:

Kings Dock, Liverpool Waterfront, Merseyside L3 4FP - See more at:

ACC Liverpool

Kings Dock, Liverpool Waterfront, Merseyside L3 4FP - See more at:

[Read more]

June 22, 2015 | Ruth Coustick-Deal

Supporter Newsletter: June 2015

This month we celebrate the positive news that independent reviews of surveillance legislation have come out criticising the plans for a revival of the Snoopers' Charter. We're also hosting launch events for ORG Scotland this month, and share a victory for the Save the Link campaign.

“It is time for a clean slate”

We have good news in the fight against mass surveillance!

In the Anderson report published last week, the UK's Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation described the UK surveillance laws as, “fragmented, obscure, under constant challenge... undemocratic, unnecessary” and declared "it is time for a clean slate." David Anderson QC, was tasked with reviewing surveillance law as a requirement of the DRIPA. Unsurprisingly he does not condemn mass surveillance in principle, but the report calls for a radical overhaul of how surveillance is regulated, and that's a great start. His key points were:

Legal reform: A comprehensive and comprehensible new law is needed.
Warrants: Warrants should be signed off by judicial commissioners.
Snoopers' Charter: The Government hasn't made a strong enough case for why this is needed.

Anderson's review and the Intelligence and Security Committee's Privacy and Security report wouldn’t have happened were it not for Edward Snowden's revelations, and persistent campaigning from the digital rights community.

Support our campaign against the Snoopers’ Charter here.

ORG Scotland launch

This week we are launching ORG Scotland with a series of free events across Scotland. Our Press Launch at the Scottish Parliament (Holyrood) on 25th June, will be attended by Patrick Harvie MSP and Willie Rennie MSP.

We have also organised a series of events across Scotland in Aberdeen (26th), Dundee (27th) and Glasgow (29th) and Edinburgh on the 29th. It's an exciting time to be fighting for digital rights in Scotland and we want you to be a part of it.

There will be talks from Wendy Grossman (Journalist, Activist and Open Rights Group Advisory Council member). These events will give you the opportunity to meet Pol Clementsmith, our newly hired Scotland Officer, who will be heading up ORG's campaigning in Scotland. Come listen to the talks, and tell Pol what you think we should be working on.

Release the Sheinwald report

With the passing in July 2014 of the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIPA), Prime Minister David Cameron announced the nomination of a Special Envoy on intelligence and law enforcement data sharing.

Two months later, he chose Sir Nigel Sheinwald, a senior diplomat who has represented the United Kingdom in Brussels as well as Washington, to fill this role. His mission was to examine what can be done, in legal terms, to facilitate the access to customers' metadata detained by companies overseas, for instance in the US.

The report supposedly concludes that negotiating an international data sharing treaty would be the best option.
However, the Guardian revealed in June 2015 that this report would not be made public on the grounds that it contains sensitive details on company's operations.

This secrecy is just another way to protect the Snoopers' Charter, as this Bill also aims at accessing metadata stored by companies. Jim Killock, Executive Director was quoted by the Guardian as stating that,

“A new international treaty is the right approach to cross-border requests for data by law enforcement agencies. This approach undermines Theresa May’s claim that there is a need for a new Snooper’s Charter when there is a simple, transparent and workable solution.”

Save the Link victory

The Save the Link coalition campaigns to stop proposals that would limit our right to link freely online.

This week we celebrated a key success in the European Union Parliament. The Legal Affairs committee voted to pass a pro-Internet copyright report, updating the rules on how we share and collaborate online. A key debate was over a system nicknamed the ‘link tax’, where aggregators and search engines - Google News, Reddit, etc. - have to pay to use snippets as small as a single word to link to news articles. These systems are already in place in Germany and Spain.

The implementation of these rules has not been successful, with most publishers in Germany choosing to waive the fee in favour of being listed in search results. That’s why we were delighted when EU Parliamentarians, under pressure from over 65,000 people at, rejected an amendment calling for expanding the ‘link tax’ to the rest of the EU.A move like this would have negatively affected Internet users across the globe, threatening freedom of expression, and setting a dangerous precedent.

Find out more about why this is a bad idea, and what the next steps are here.

International Open Data conference

Javier Ruiz, Policy Director, ran a workshop on privacy at the International Open Data Conference in Ottawa, Canada for government and civil society. The session explored how being open-by-default should not threaten the privacy and rights of citizens.

The workshop gave an introduction to basic concepts around privacy and open data to encourage critical thinking when considering releasing personal information. The session managed both to get participants to discuss in quite detail these issues, and also to flag privacy concerns more widely around the conference.

Quick Fire News

Challenging DRIPA in Court
Last year, ORG and Privacy International made submissions to a legal challenge to the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIPA) brought by Liberty on behalf of MPs David Davis and Tom Watson.

Our submission pointed out that DRIPA isn’t compliant with European laws. This was raised at a hearing at the High Court on 4th and 5th June, which also saw Liberty argue that DRIPA is incompatible with the Human Rights Act.

ORG Website changes
We’ve just revamped the ORG web site. Our Campaigns, Get Involved and Local Groups sites have had a complete overhaul and we’re really proud of how they look now. Please take a look and take action!

Labour Campaign for Human Rights
The Labour Campaign for Human Rights is building a grassroots movement within the Labour Party to oppose the Snoopers' Charter and curb mass surveillance. We would like to call on all ORG members who are also members of the Labour party to come forward and help LCHR pass motions opposing the Snoopers' Charter in their Constituency Labour Party. Five groups have already passed motions and LCHR would like to get more passed in the coming weeks. If you can help, please contact

Open Rights Group's Policy Report is back! Every week we produce a report on what's happening in digital rights politics across UK & Europe. You can subscribe to this newsletter here.

ORG out and about

Help us launch ORG Scotland
Open Rights Group is launching 'ORG Scotland' with our new Scotland Officer, Pol Clementsmith! We have organised a series of events in Scotland:

Aberdeen: Friday, June 26, 2015
6:15 PM to 8:30 PM
Meston Building, University of Aberdeen, King's College, AB24 3FX

Dundee: Saturday, June 27, 2015
2:30 PM to 5:00 PM
Dundee Contemporary Arts
152 Nethergate, Dundee

Glasgow: Sunday, June 28, 2015
2:30 PM to 5:00 PM
The Old Hairdresser's (opposite stereo) Renfield Lane, Glasgow, G2 6PH, Glasgow

Edinburgh: Monday, June 29, 2015
6:45 PM to 9:00 PM

Argyle House, 3 Lady Lawson Street Edinburgh, EH3 9DR, Edinburgh

Thank you

Everyone who takes part in our actions, attends an event, volunteers, or becomes a member, is helping politicians remember that we are not giving up on the right to privacy.

Thank you for supporting our work.

Best wishes,

ings Dock, Liverpool Waterfront, Merseyside L3 4FP - See more at:

Kings Dock, Liverpool Waterfront, Merseyside L3 4FP - See more at:

ACC Liverpool

Kings Dock, Liverpool Waterfront, Merseyside L3 4FP - See more at:


[Read more]

April 30, 2015 | Ruth Coustick-Deal

Supporter Newsletter: April 2015

It's impossible to miss that the General Election is only 1 week away, MPs have now become candidates again and come May 8th we'll have a new parliament and new government. We look at how our community has been raising awareness of digital rights across Britain.


It's not over yet, the election campaign is still going strong with all the parties out hunting for votes. We want to help you have your say in the results! Over the last few weeks we’ve been working with our supporters to get digital rights debated and to make sure you can be informed as possible about your vote.

1. The Great Mass Surveillance Survey

We have just launched our 2015 Election Candidates Mass Surveillance Survey!

Election survey website screen shot
All parliamentary candidates in Britain were asked the question: "How would you reform surveillance law, oversight and practice to respect the rights of law-abiding people?"

You can visit and enter your postcode to see what answers your local candidate gave.

If your local politicians haven't replied, we've also gone through the mainfestos on your behalf and picked out out the most relevant parts on surveillance so you can see how each party stands on the issue.

2. Our local groups making a difference

Brighton husting crowd

Over the last few weeks our groups in Manchester, Bristol and Brighton have run hustings for their local candidates. These are public events where you can ask your parliamentary candidates about the things you care about.

Candidates from every party
told us where they stood on surveillance.Their considered answers demonstrated the value of speaking not only to your candidates, but your new MP. Every single debate was packed and our supporters asked great questions.

It was brilliant to see our groups organise these by teaming up with other local activists. In Manchester, Bristol and Brighton we worked with groups including 38 Degrees, Amnesty and Christian Aid. Together weve ensured that civil liberties are not left out of the equation.

3. Ask your question

It's worth turning up and asking a question at a hustings near you, even if you think the result in your area is decided. Seats that have traditionally been safe are now finding themselves in a competition, and we're going to have an incredibly close election.

Asking a question about civil liberties at a local event is a powerful way of reminding candidates that their consituencies care about their rights. If we can persuade candidates about surveillance now, it'll it easier to win privacy campaigns in the future.

You can find out if there's a hustings near you using

4. Talk to me about surveillance

ORG's talk to your candidate poster Thanks to @SamH for use of his photo

Thanks to our recent membership growth we've been able to produce lots of materials for our supporters.

We have sent out ORG's Election Guide for Supporters and a poster for you to display to encourage candidates standing for MP to knock on your door and talk to you about surveillance. The guide includes questions you can ask, and the responses that you might get. If you didn't get a pack and would like to, please just reply to this email. You can also join ORG here.

5. Election training

London election training

In our London group we ran a General Election Training evening on how to make an impact this election, giving you the knowledge needed to be confident and effective activists this election.

We covered how to explain surveillance issues to other people, whether they are family members or the Prime Minister; on your own doorstep or at a public debate in the town hall.

Our community wrote 15 letters to local newspapers using our templates which they sent off on the evening.

Even if you couldn't make any of these events, you can still participate in any of these actions - there's plenty of time left to make a difference!

Thank you

Everyone who takes part in our actions, puts up a poster in the window, attends an event or becomes a member, is helping politicians remember that the right to privacy is not something we are giving up on.

Our community is doing an amazing job to work together and make digital rights into a big issue for candidates this election.

Thank you for supporting our work.

Quick Fire News

On Saturday 14th March, Open Rights Group ran workshops with young women about online privacy at Being Watched, an all day conference for young women, aimed at helping them to regain control in the online world. During our four sessions, we spoke to teenage girls about how people lose control of information about themselves online. Within five minutes of the opening we were getting questions about whether Facebook could read their messages, and it only got more interesting. You can read more about the day on our blog.

In new Gods we trust
Executive Director Jim Killock gave an in-depth profile interview to Open Democracy, discussing the full breadth of digital rights issues we work on including: bulk collection, state bureaucracies, trust and 'the pre-crime era'.

Open Rights Group have filed amicus curiae briefs with the Hungarian Constitutional Court, alongside Privacy International and a group of internationally acknowledged experts.
The case has been brought by the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU), in an attempt to force the Hungarian Constitutional Court to repeal their Electronic Communications Act. Our submissions focus on the importance of EU law and why the Hungarian law does not comply with it.

We have joined a network of over 30 organizations from 12 countries to “Save The Link”. The international campaign has been launched in response to a major copyright review in the EU which includesamendments to the European Union’s Copyright Directive that would fundamentally undermine the right to link. The use of hyperlinks themselves, a fundamental part of how we all use the web, could become copyright infringement. Sign the petition to save the link here.

ORG out and about

Shape the future of ORG London 11 May, 19.00
We will be running an interactive feedback, brain storming and planning session to talk about what you want from the group.
119 Farringdon Road

Internet Censorship: The Collapse of Russia's Democratic Dream ORG London meetup, 18 May, 7.30pm
An introduction to Internet censorship in Russia, from researcher Gregory Asmolov
119 Farringdon Road

[Read more]