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August 31, 2007 | Michael Holloway

Supporters Update - August 2007

News

  • Electoral Commission echo ORG call for public debate on electronic elections

The Electoral Commission published their report into 2007 e-Voting pilots this month. It recommends that e-voting pilots come to a halt until a consultation into reforming policy on electronic elections has taken place: one of the key conclusions of ORG's June 2007 elections report. We'll be discussing these reports with commission representatives, elected officials and political party members in our tour of the political party conference this September.

  • Consult

Do you really and truly want to contribute to consultations but find it's a faff to make yourself heard? We've got a new way for the community to share their views: Consult. The tool makes it really easy to comment on specific parts of any document, and read what others think about them too. Please test it out and let us know how you like it. There are three ongoing consultations to get us started: the Government's 'Consultation on Consultations' (4) and then two from the Information Commissioner's Office, 'Data Protection Strategy' (5) and 'Sharing Personal Information'.

  • Public Domain Works alpha launch

Works in the public domain are simpler and cheaper to reuse than protected works, because you don't need to ask rights holders (or their lawyers!) for permission. The PD Works database (7) is a new addition to the digital artist's toolkit to help us build on the past by identifying sound recordings that are now public domain. An alpha version is running and we ask you guys to test the interface but also verify and contribute to the underlying data.

  • Brighton, Bournemouth and Blackpool: meet the ORG crew and invite your MP to our fringe event

As part of our tour of the autumn party conferences we want to meet local supporters and sympathisers. We're meeting in Brighton on Sunday 16 September at 16.00 at The Black Lion (8). We don't yet have venues for the the other towns but hope someone will suggest a suitable boozer. The plan is to meet in Bournemouth the evening of Tuesday 25 September and in Blackpool the evening of Monday 1 October. Drop us a line if you're local and want to get together. Also, if you've not yet done so, please please please invite your MP along to our fringe events - it's exactly one hundred times more effective than us asking. The event details are online (9), as are guidelines for your letters.

  • DRM

Defective by Design's hazmat squad were again out in strength this month, demonstrating against iPlayer's use of DRM at BBC HQ in White City, London. And the petition to Number Ten against the Microsoft only on-demand service closed this month, with over 16,000 signatures!

Press relations

Every week, we spend time talking to the media and connecting them with experts or giving them an alternate point of view on current issues.

BBC News 'The Ghosts in the Voting Machine' Bill Thompson, in light of the technical evaluations of the May 2007 electoral pilots produced by ourselves and the Electoral Commission, argues for withholding trust until a technology has proven its merits.

Washington Post - 'UK report questions role of ISPs in online safety' Jeremy Kirk reports on the Lords' review of Personal Internet Security, which argues that ISPs should become responsible for online security because users fail to take effective precautions. We do not believe ISPs are best-placed to police the networks, and that increased responsibility for users actions would lead to illiberal enforcement tactics.

BBC News 'Halt e-voting says election body' The Electoral Commission ask for web and phone voting pilots to be stopped until security and testing have been improved. Despite fresh ministerial promises, we warn that successive Governments have failed to learn the lessons of trials and that future pilots should be scrapped.

Mini-links

The Dan Rather Reports episode 'The Trouble with Touchscreens' provides an insight into ES&S (a key e-voting vendor both here and in the US) and their US/Far East outsourcing practices

Sign up to dissent against European Commission back-pedalling on free and open standards

'Public health: Private data' is a joint event hosted by BCS Health Informatics Forum and BCS Security Forum entitled.

Channel 4 comedy I.T. Crowd shows its support for the Open Rights Group.

Thanks

Thanks to Rufus and the OKFNers for leading the way with Public Domain Works, to Sheila and Glyn for getting Consult up and running, to Austin for donating more and more hardware, to Adam for continuing to work on our office network. Thanks again to Glyn for representing ORG at the Edinburgh TV Un-Conference and Podcon. Thanks to Kevin for working on the anti-DRM pamphlet. And as always, thanks to all ORG's Directors and Advisers. Extra thanks to anyone we neglected to mention.

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The ORG privacy policy is online

Thank you!

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July 31, 2007 | Michael Holloway

Supporters Update - July 2007

News

  • 'Should we trust electronic elections?' - ORG @ Autumn 2007 Party Conferences

ORG will tour the 3 major English political party's conferences this Autumn, holding fringe events to spread the message that e-voting and e-counting systems are unwelcome developments in UK democracy. Ministers and representatives from the Electoral Commission have pledged to join ORG on stage for a lively debate on electronic elections. But we need your help. We need you to invite your MPs, MEPs and councillors to discuss the issue and share their views. Please write, phone, email and generally badger your political representatives into attending our events and finding out more about the issues. Full details for your invitations are listed on our website, as well as guidelines of how to get your representatives' attention.

Party conference events are restricted to holders of expensive tickets, but ORG couldn't miss this opportunity to meet up with local supporters, so we're organising meetups in Brighton, Bournemouth and Blackpool. Please get in touch if you'd like to join us, especially if you know a suitable venue. In addition, we need local volunteers to help flyer conference delegates and encourage them to join our fringe events. Please hit reply and let us know if you can help out.

  • Government declines to support term extension. Sorry, Cliff.

The powerful campaign to extend copyright protection for sound recordings has failed to convince the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (3), who have refused to lobby the European Commission for further increases in the term of right holder control. The beginning of the end for intellectual property maximalism? We hope so. Certainly this is a sea-change in government policy because requests for extension are typically granted. To reflect these weighty developments, we have updated our briefing pack and will be putting it out to partner groups in Europe for translation, in readiness for the rights holders taking their claims to the European Commission.

  • iPlayer

The BBC's iPlayer launched on 27 July. But license fee-payers not using Windows XP are so far excluded from the service, because it uses Windows-only DRM. The Open Source Consortium are threatening to take their complaint that the BBC is distorting the market in favour of Windows to European competition authorities. But the BBC could avoid this mess entirely if it listened to consumer groups and market signals, both of which indicate that DRM's days are numbered. Over 13,000 people have already signed the e-petition - if you feel strongly about the issue please add your name to theirs. Come along to one of Defective by Design's coordinated protests outside BBC offices in London and Manchester on 14 August (8). And if you feel inspired to write to your MP on the issue, ORG's submission to the BBC Trust should provide you with some good arguments to make.

  • Government consultations - tell us what to tell the Government

To ensure our submissions are well-informed and reflect your opinions, please share your views on two consultations recently added to the ORG wiki. The Information Commissioner is taking views on his 'Data Protection Strategy' - this is core ORG terittory so we know you'll give us lots to go on. In addition, the Cabinet Office is interested in how the Government can improve their approach to consultations. Their 'Effective Consultations' document contains a range of suggested policy options that we'd love to know your opinions on.

Press relations

Every week, we spend time talking to the media and connecting them with experts or giving them an alternate point of view on current issues.

BBC Digital Planet - 'Facebook Fears' (9:20 > 18:56) Tired eyes but hungry for digital rights news? Have a listen to Becky debate the privacy concerns associated with Facebook, and how she manages her own data online to minimize these risks.

Mac User - 'Government rejects call for recording copyright extension' Fantastic news: Government backs our Release the Music campaign and the Gowers Review by denying record industry calls to extend monopoly control over culture. ORG notes that extension would give a windfall to rights holders whereas allowing recordings to enter the public domain benefits the wider economy.

Computer World UK - 'Opposition MPs warn on 'piecemeal' data protection changes' Brown's recent legislative programme includes powers that enable yet more sharing of our personal information between public authorities. We argue against tacking these powers onto miscellaneous legislation and in favour of open debate on their impact on the relationship between citizen and state.

ZDNet - 'BBC iPlayer launch on, despite crack' Despite the appearance of tools to strip iPlayer content of its newly-patched Microsoft copy protection, production companies still believe DRM can guarantee their future revenues. David Meyer is unconvinced by BBC statements that justify the use of cracked DRM in the iPlayer, launched 27 July. ORG condemns this approach, and notes the decision by EMI and Apple to drop DRM is better practice.

BBC News - 'E-voters not boosting turnout' The BBC's political research editor, David Cowling, debunks the myth that electronic elections increase turnout. ORG's call to suspend trials until the technologies are proven reliable is reported together with comments from the Electoral Commission, who are calling on Government to publish an electoral modernisation 'roadmap'.

Lots more articles listed on the ORG wiki.

Mini-links

  • The Office of Public Sector information and the Free Our Data campaign will set up a web channel through which the public can request public data in the form they want it. Neat-o!
  • BBC's Backstage seek your views on their new Digital Media Initiative

  • Hans Rosling is a Swedish Professor of International Health. Check this inspiring presentation on new uses for public data, and the associated need for new business models.

Thanks (A new section where we acknowledge the efforts of the kind people that help keep ORG running)

Thanks to Jason Kitcat for continuing his work on electronic elections. Thanks to Adam and Lemon for saving ORG's butt when our server flipped its lid. Adam gets double-thanks for setting up the machines in our new office. Felix and Austin get big thanks for procuring said office machinery. Thanks to the Writers Corps (especially Ryan and Richard) for answering Becky's call for copy. Thanks to Tim for hosting CC-Salon (like an old hand). Kevin deserves high praise for finding us space to host AV objects. Thanks to Jordan, Fearghas and the other Scots supporters for reminding us to always reach out beyond the M25. Hearty thanks to the Board and Advisory for sharing expertise and insights. Last but not least, thanks to Glyn for always being on-hand and on-point.

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June 29, 2007 | Michael Holloway

Supporters Update - June 2007

News

  • May 2007 Election Report

We published our Elections Report this month, presenting our observations of and investigations into the 3 May elections. The report raises serious concerns regarding the use of e-voting and e-counting technologies in statutory elections and questions the government's preference for voter convenience over confidence and trust in the electoral process. It earned ORG its first mention in Parliament, and our Westminster launch event saw MPs, civil servants and all manner of politicos rub shoulders with online activists and computer security experts. Thanks to all the volunteers whose hard work and dedication made this watershed campaign possible.

  • iCommons

ORG was invited to the iCommons iSummit in Dubrovnik, Croatia this month to talk about its work to the international community of Creative Commons enthusiasts gathered there. Becky shared a stage with Cory Doctorow, Erik Josefsson of EFF Europe and Fred Beneson of Free Culture. There was great interest in the work ORG did around the Gowers Review of Intellectual Property last year, with many people asking how they could form "ORGs" back in their home countries. Larry Lessig, announcing his intention to retire as the movement's spokesperson, endorsed ORG's work in the UK.

  • Surveillance and Privacy at the House of Lords

ORG submitted a short response to the House of Lords Constitution Committee's consultation into the impact of surveillance and data collection upon the privacy of citizens and their relationship with the state. We argued that legislative safeguards against the mismanagement and misue of private data are poorly enforced.

  • IPRED 2

Becky attended the UK Intellectual Property Office's stakeholder meeting on IPRED2, an EU directive which could turn some forms of intellectual property infringement from a civil to a criminal offence. The legislation has passed the European Parliament and is now with the Council of Ministers, meaning member state governments will soon have their chance to input on the legislation. There was some consensus at the meeting that the legislation should only apply to counterfeiting and piracy, yet it was not clear what each of the participants meant by piracy, and the contentious definition of "commercial scale" infringement may well go unchallenged. We'll keep you updated as to how the negotiations progress. Its also worth following EFF Europe's Copycrime blog.

  • ORG gets real (offices)

ORG now has offices in central London! Although there is some antiquated kit knocking around, we could really use your spare hardware to form a slick office network. Please scour your dusty recesses for unused monitors, boxes or servers that would do the job, and help preserve ORG's bank balance. No doubt the community has plenty of excess hardware that could be put to better use, so please email your suggestions to donate-hardware@openrightsgroup.org.

  • ORG Summer Internships

You may have noticed that Chris Adams interned with us for the last few months, bringing energy and visual flair to ORG's day-to-day functions. He's now moved on to pastures paid (leaving a significant gap in all our lives) so we're looking for more of the same. Applicants will preferably be able to work with us in central London, and the internships offer a great opportunity for anyone looking to move into the not-for-profit/campaigning sector. The work is varied - part-drudge, part-creative - but depends largely on the individual's skills. The post is voluntary and unpaid, although we will provide a per diem to cover expenses. If you'd like to take the pulse of digital rights advocacy in the UK, hit reply and attach a CV and details of availability.

Press relations Every week, we spend time talking to the media and connecting them with experts or giving them an alternate point of view on current issues.

BBC - 'E-vote 'threat' to UK democracy' - Auntie amplifies the concerns expressed in ORG's elections report, leading with our warning that "British democracy could be undermined by moves to use electronic voting in elections".

The Daily Mail - 'Serious concerns that e-voting will lead to more spoilt votes' - This article reflects our damning indictment of the 'chaotic scenes' experienced at polling stations in Sheffield, Swindon and Scotland on 3 May. We particularly enjoyed the under-stated remark that 'e-voting and e-counting technologies have a poor track record'.

Guardian - 'Counting error almost gave Labour Scottish election victory' - Bobbie Johnson and David Hencke also picked up on our hot-off-the-presses report, emphasising that the deeply flawed e-counting system trialled in Scotland nearly gave power in Holyrood to Labour. Only last-minute intervention by an alert SNP candidate prevented declaration of the wrong result by poll-workers, who'd been awake for 35 hours!

The elections report did well with local press too, see the ORG wiki for reports from Sheffield, Swindon and Norfolk, as well as more coverage from New Scientist, net.wars, Slashdot, Channel 4 and The Register.

And just to show we're no one-trick pony, here's a couple of other ORG-related stories in the press:

Out-law.com - 'Rock star says piracy battle is lost' - Dave Rowntree, recent recruit to ORG's Advisory Council, discusses major record label difficulties in the digital age. As always, he's strongly critical of DRM: "it was doomed to fail because the people who it was designed to stop ... could easily bypass it".

Guardian - 'Schools warn of abuse risk from IT database' - ORG teamed up with the Independent Schools Council, Action on Rights for Children and FIPR to publicise privacy and security concerns associated with the Contract Point database, which holds sensitive information on 11 million children in England, for the purpose of helping children's services work together. James Meikle reports the 'potentially leaky and inadequate system' needs much improvement before launch, scheduled for 2008.

Mini-links

  • This sitcom from Alan Partridge's production company is distributed using all kinds of gadgetery, plus its CC-licensed and is really very funny. Its call 'Where art the Joneses'.

  • Nothing but love to Tim Cowlishaw, who put together London's first CC-Salon. Last night's event was cosy, collaborative and educational. See you next time, on July 26th, as we continue to blend the arts, discussion and free culture. Be sure to get in touch if you have a project you'd like to come present.

  • The 'Guide to Open Data Licensing' is yet another great project from OKFN, aimed particularly at those who want to make their data open. Please spread the word and help others - institutions, companies, your mates - open up their data.

  • 'Can science secure our skies?' looks at the trade-off between security and civil liberties when new technologies are introduced to our airports. It will be held on July 10th at the Science Museum, and sounds right up our street.

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June 01, 2007 | Michael Holloway

Supporters Update - May 2007

News

  • ORG's recruiting! We need volunteers for the Board

It's hard to believe, but the Open Rights Group is nearly two years old! ORG's Board have started the organisation on a steady course, and now they're refreshing their ranks with new folks interested in dedicating their time to building a sustainable digital rights organisation.

So we're looking for applications to become a non-executive member of ORG's board. It's a position that requires serious dedication. But it's a position that promises significant rewards too, not least the chance to play a major part in the success of a young campaigning organisation that is already making a significant impact (if we do say so ourselves). The position is unpaid, although out-of-pocket expenses will be refunded.

If you're interested in applying, take a look at the detailed job description and hit reply with any questions. The closing date for applications is 22 June.

  • E-Voting - Observer mission accomplished; Westminster report launch 20 June-

Our volunteer election observer team went to work as planned on 3 May. Some even stayed up all night to eyeball the trials. Thanks to everyone who pitched in and thanks again for submitting in-depth reports on the procedural and technical difficulties you encountered. As you read this, Jason Kitcat is fastidiously processing all the evidence to produce our final report. It will be launched in Westminster on 20 June. If you have a spare minute, please write and invite your MP to come and learn why e-voting and e-counting do not belong in our electoral process.

  • Consultations - Deadlines fast approaching for 'surveillance state', data retention and FoI

As mentioned last month, we are preparing submissions for a number of consultations and need your opinions. The House of Lords' Constitution Committee is inquiring into how the collection and use of surveillance and other personal data affects the relationship between citizen and state. You have only a few days left to share your views.

Meanwhile, the Home Office is consulting on the implementation of the controversial Data Retention Directive. Are you affected by increased police access to communications data? Are you concerned by the associated costs to businesses, or implications for privacy? If so, register your perspective on the wiki. Also ongoing is a consultation on the Freedom of Information Act. If you object to Whitehall penny-pinching at the expense of the public interest, express yourself on the wiki.

This month, led by Alan Cox, ORG responded to the Hansard Society's 'Parliament for the Future' consultation. Our submission recommends the use of open standards as a basis for parliamentary tech projects, as well as enhanced public access to raw parliamentary data. ORG also endorsed a response, authored by a coalition of consumer and digital rights groups, to the EU's second intellectual property directive, which is well worth a read.

  • MPs ignore economics and support copyright term extension - Please write to your MP

Reports commissioned by the Treasury and the European Commission oppose term extension for sound recordings. The Gowers Review advises against extension on economic grounds - its author has even said evidence supports term reduction. Yet some MPs are unconvinced, and May saw both an Early Day Motion and a Select Committee report recommending term extension.

It is vital you write to check your MP's position on this issue. If you believe strongly that term should not be extended, ask that your MP tells Government how you feel. If you need inspiration, check out ORG's Release the Music briefing pack.

  • Tracking what's upcoming for ORGers

We've created a group on Upcoming, to help us keep track of all the dates that are important for the ORG community. Relevant dates range from conferences, public consultations and parliamentary debates on pertinent laws, to launches of DRM-laden technologies, important anniversaries and dates when recordings from high profile artists like Cliff Richard move into the public domain. That's a rough sketch of what we're looking for, but its also up to you to decide what events deserve our attention, and to help us plan for them ahead of time.

If you want to suggest an event or track our calendar, please join our upcoming group. You can also send your tip off to upcoming[at]openrightsgroup.org.

  • ccSalon London - 28th June 2007

ORG, together with Creative Commons and Free Culture UK is sponsoring the London ccSalon, and the first event will be held on 28 June.

The ccSalon is a monthly event focused on building a community of artists and developers around Creative Commons, and has been running with great success in San Francisco, Berlin and Johannesberg. All are welcome, especially anyone interested in Creative Commons, copyright, Free Culture, Open Source, art, media, and music.

28 June will see Tom Reynolds (Random Acts of Reality), Elizabeth Stark (Free Culture USA) and Jonathan Roberts (FreeMeDVD) take to the stage, along with after-dinner.net DJs. There's plenty more planned for future events, and we'd love to hear from anyone interested in participating, whether by performing, exhibiting work, or giving a talk or presentation. Please email Tim Cowlishaw if this sounds like you.

Press relations

Every week, we spend time talking to the media and connecting them with experts or giving them an alternate point of view on current issues.

The Register: 'Observers forced to 'negotiate' for evote access' Lucy Sheriff writes on our difficulties in accessing servers and other e-voting mechanisms. Jason confirms that we could not in fact observe some parts of the vote.

The New Statesman: 'Pity Poor Cliff' Sian Berry is unconvinced by calls for copyright term extension, and cites ORG's analysis of this issue. The freedoms to copy, mix and share are more valuable to the creative economy than an unreliable pension plan for a small group of artists.

Swindon Advertiser - 'Voting shambles blamed on rush' Sarah Hilley reports on the lack of adequate planning as one cause of Swindon's difficulties at the recent local elections. Local officials share her criticisms, which Jason Kitcat indicates were also felt in other pilot areas.

The Guardian - 'Google may use games to analyse net users' Bobbie Johnson and David Adam uncover the search giant's plan to compile - and then sell on to advertisers - psychological profiles based on in-game characteristics. So players who've been in session for hours on end may be targeted by delivery food services, and players who spend a lot of time nattering get mobile phone adverts. Suw Charman expresses concern that these databases could be appropriated for less benevolent purposes.

More ORG-flavoured articles listed on our wiki.

Mini-links

  • 6 June: Amnesty event to discuss the struggle against internet repression and celebrate freedom of expression. Features Cory Doctorow, Jimmy Wales, Kevin Anderson, Richard Stallman and many others.

  • Keep your eye out for news about LUGRadio Live 2007, taking place this July - Becky will be there talking about ORG, and our very own Alan Cox is headlining, along with Chris diBona (Google) and Nat Friedman (Novell).

  • Ever have trouble explaining copyright? This video mashup does it better than most.

The ORG privacy policy is online at http://www.openrightsgroup.org/privacy-policy/

Thank you!

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May 15, 2007 | Michael Holloway

Supporters Update - April 2007

News

  • Election Watch 2007 - Ready to roll!

We announced our official 'Observer' accreditation from the Electoral Commission last week, as well as clearance to observe server hosting locations for Swindon, Rushmoor, Shrewsbury and Sheffield. Best of luck to our 25-strong volunteer mission who will be on the ground - sporting some very nice, bespoke ORG T-Shirts (see below) - this week.

Also, plans for more e-voting events later this year are taking shape. There will be a Westminster date in June to launch our technical evaluation of the trials, as well as 3 separate events at the Party Conferences in September. If anyone can help us locate conference facilities in Brighton, Bournemouth or Blackpool, or indeed wants to volunteer to lend a hand when we come to town, just hit reply and get involved.

  • Support ORG - buy our goodies!

If you came to our party this month you will have seen Glyn sporting our fabulous new ORG T-Shirt. The full range - including (as suggested by you) bigger logos, black Ts and lady sizes - is now available at our online merch shop. Each purchase from the shop includes a modest (£5 or under) contribution to our war-chest. Besides these fine togs you can also buy ORG mugs and mousemats, so you can impress your place of work with your good taste and philanthropy. As always if you have suggestions to expand or improve the range, just hit reply and let us know.

  • Consultations - Please help us help the government help us all

We are working towards submissions for various government consultations. The Home Office need our help to implement the EU Data Retention Directive, which obliges public communications providers to keep records of our phone calls and other communications. If you are concerned about the privacy implications of this Directive, or about onerous burdens imposed on business, please jot your thoughts onto the wiki. Also, the Dept. for Constitutional Affairs are trying to emasculate the Freedom of Information Act. If you think government should be more concerned with accountability than saving the blushes of MPs and civil servants (under the pretence of saving a few quid), then vent on the wiki. Next comes the House of Lords' Consitutition Committee's inquiry into 'the impact of surveillance and data collection upon the privacy of citizens and their relationship with the state'. In addition, we have wiki-pages for Home Office reviews of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (perhaps relevant in terms of increasing use of DNA / fingerprinting databases) and child pornography laws (perhaps relevant in terms of computer-generated pictures).

  • ccSalon London - Call for Performers

Free Culture UK and the Open Rights Group plan to hold a monthly ccSalon event in London, starting in June. CC Salon is a monthly event focused on building a community of artists and developers around Creative Commons licenses, standards, and technology. Salons are already established in San Francisco, Johannesburg and Berlin. All are invited, especially those interested in Creative Commons, Free Culture and the application of Open Source concepts to Art, Media, and Music.

We need visual artists, musicians and anyone else who publishes works under an open license. We also need people whose cultural practice involves appropriation, quotation, remixing, sampling, collage (i.e. reuse / recycling). If you'd like to exhibit, perform, or otherwise take part in this event, please email for details. Tim also wants sponsors and practical assistance for running the event, so drop him a line if this sounds like you.

Press relations

Every week, we spend time talking to the media and connecting them with experts or giving them an alternate point of view on current issues.

The Guardian - 'Council poll monitors fear e-vote fraud' David Hencke criticises legislation which rather confounds our e-voting mission, by neglecting to guarantee access to council servers and e-voting centres. Jason laments that although "all of them have agreed in principle that we can come ... we are relying on grace and favour agreements on where we can go."

International Herald Tribune - 'France to choose president with help of electronic voting' Thomas Crampton reports on the use of e-voting across Europe and the globe, despite the technology's technical and usability shortcomings. Jason is quoted on a number of points, including the propensity for simple human error to skew and invalidate election results and the government's apparent lack of concern for solving security failings in the democratic process.

The Guardian - 'Expanding Networks' Megan Griffith sees opportunities for voluntary groups to expand into the online domain, where marginal communities can take advantage of the fluid, participative culture to avoid hierarchical coordination in order to grow extraordinarily quickly. The Open Rights Group (and the US-based Genocide Intervention Network) are given as exemplar of these processes!

New Statesman - 'Righting Digital Wrongs' Mike Butcher blogs on the Open Rights Group's nomination in the Advocacy category at this year's New Statesman New Media awards. He likes our our grassroots legitimacy in particular, and says we punch well above our weight. Follow the link to add your glowing comments to our nomination.

The Times - 'E-votes put wrong name next to the Labour rose' Sam Coates reports on a human-error in the Rushmoor (Hampshire) internet voting experiment that threatened to invalidate the election by displaying a Conservative candidate's name next to a Labour rose. The story also notes our efforts to raise awareness of the trials' vulnerability to crackers.

Mini-links

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April 25, 2007 | Michael Holloway

Supporters Update - March 2007

News

  • Election Watch 2007 going strong - more volunteers needed

The response to our call for volunteer election observers has been fantastic - we've already got five of the eleven e-voting pilot areas covered. But we still need more, and it's not (quite) too late to put yourself forward. If you live in or around one of the pilot areas (or are willing to travel there) and you’d like to help out, please let us know by signing up to our location-specific pledge. And if you have volunteered already, please send us your completed registration packs soon so we can accredit you with the Electoral Commission.

You'll receive full instructions on what will be expected of you on the day, as well as evaluation criteria tailored for the different trials. We’ll expect you to travel around the pilot area during the day, and to turnaround a quick report for us afterwards. And the good news is, we've just received a grant of £24,000 from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, to help towards our e-voting campaign. Part of this money will go towards funding presentations on e-voting to each of the major party conferences in the Autumn - which will help us make sure the information we gather during the missions reaches the right people. Thanks, JRRT!

If you missed our February e-voting events, take a tour of our ever-growing e-voting minisite, which now includes videos of the UCL lectures and panel discussions.

  • Support ORG! (and Party) (...and Raffle!)

Our first proper party will be a chance for ORG supporters to meet each other, to chat to volunteers and staff and celebrate how far we’ve all come since ORG started. There’ll be 'open culture' DJs (think public domain records + mash-ups, versions and remixes galore), CC visuals and goodie bags (music, software, merch and discount vouchers), as well as special guest appearances from Danny O’Brien and Dave Rowntree. We need you to spread the word about the party, and help boost the ranks of ORG supporters. It starts at 6pm on Wednesday 11 April at Bar Kick, E1, and lasts until 11pm. Please sign up via Eventbrite.

Prizes for the raffle include Neil Gaiman’s (signed) keyboard, signed copies of Bruce Schneier’s Beyond Fear, Lessig's Code v2, and the Gowers Review, £150 of O'Reilly book vouchers, a set of a dozen Beatpick compilations and a couple of extra special Doctorow donations: a signed author’s galley of his next novel, Little Brother (forthcoming in 2008), and the opportunity to be written into it! We’ll make the draw on the night of 11 April. All advance purchases (we’ll close the Paypal interface an hour or two before the party) will be assigned a paper ticket, then added together with tickets sold on the night. Advance raffle tickets are £2.50 through Paypal.

  • DRM - your digital rights don't need managing

The battle to discredit and marginalise DRM continues with Becky and the IFPI debating the issue on BBC Click - well worth watching her in action. Also, our volunteers and advisers are drafting a short, plain-English guide to the technical reasons why DRM is doomed, to be presented to recording industry bodies. We all know DRM is no basis for a business model, hopefully we can help the record execs see the light.

  • Consultation fever!

This month we made contributions to no less than three public consultations, and began work on another two. Our work on the BBC's iPlayer consultation was led by the Advisory Council - thanks to all contributors but especially Alan Cox (and his wife!). We also endorsed the excellent work by Ross Anderson and colleagues at the Foundation for Information Policy Research on the NHS' centralised electronic patient records. And in conjunction with the Open Knowledge Foundation and Free Culture UK, we submitted to Ofcom's thoroughly progressive Public Service Provider consultation document.

If you want to help our consultation responses, we'll be considering the UK transposition of European data retention laws and also the 'Surveillance Society' in the next month or so. Just reply to this email to indicate your interest.

Events 7th UK Network Operators Forum: 3 April (Manchester). An open forum for operational, technical and engineering information exchange related to backbone networking technologies and practices.

ORG Volunteers meeting: 4 April (London). Come and find out how you can help with ORG's ongoing activities.

MiniBar: 20 April (London). A social evening in East London - organised by Open Business - which offers a chance to snaffle some free beer while discussing p2p, Creative Commons, web applications, social networking and general Web 2.0 mayhem & fandango. Computers, Freedom, and Privacy: 1-4 May (Montreal, Canada). Debate the future of computing, privacy and freedom in the online world with key representatives from government, business, education and non-profits; including the legal, law enforcement, security, media, consumer and hacker communities.

Press We jump at every chance to talk to the media and connect them with experts on issues that matter to our supporters. These are some examples of our influence this month.

Evening Standard, Andrew Gilligan: 'E-Vote security fears are being ignored' The current trial of insecure voting technologies is driven by the economic interests of vendors, and ignores expert academic advice by proceeding without proper safeguards. Our e-voting co-ordinator, Jason Kitcat, notes that hacking these machines is a trivial exercise.

Register, Lucy Sherriff: 'Dutch FOI disclosures reveal the odd business of evoting' A programmer associated with the discredited Nedap vendor seems to think he's in charge of how Dutch citizens cast their vote. Jason Kitcat comments that despite this 'very worrying' revelation, the Dutch government - following the October 2006 TV broadcast of the Gonggrijp hack - are now engaged in proper scrutiny. Would a similar exercise be useful over here?

Guardian, Roy Greenslade: 'Changing Media Summit - The wrongs of rights' Brief but nicely weighted piece reporting the perspectives of different interest groups in the DRM debate. Ian Brown, of our Advisory Council, points out that record executives accept sales are inhibited by DRM, and that unprotected formats are the future for digital distribution of music.

See more of our press coverage in March on the wiki

Mini-links

  • What's going to go wrong in our e-enabled world? The Blindside blog and wiki is your place to share evidence, insights and concerns about the technical and social risks of the information age. From Kable and the team behind Ideal Government.

[Read more]


April 24, 2007 | Michael Holloway

Supporters Update - February 2007

News

  • A date for your diary: Wednesday 11 April

Please keep this date free in your diary for an extra special Support ORG! (and party) London evening event. It's a chance to meet ORG supporters, volunteers and staff and enjoy public domain DJs, remixed visuals and free culture goodie bags. The rub? We want you to bring along a friend you want to turn into an ORG supporter. Includes very special guest speaker to be announced.

  • e-Voting campaign gets off to a flying start

ORG held a week of e-voting events at the beginning of February, including a screening of 'Hacking Democracy' at UCL, and a series of presentations by e-voting activists from across Europe and the United States. The event, which was covered by the BBC's Digital Planet, gave us a great opportunity to learn from the successes of other groups. We are now planning our campaign for the May pilots. Please visit the e-voting microsite to find out how you can help. Sir Alistair Graham, who chairs the Committee on Standards in Public Life, has already done his bit, by calling for the pilots to come to an immediate halt.

  • National DNA Database consultation response

ORG submitted a response to the Nuffield Council on Bioethics about ethical issues surrounding forensic bioinformation, with a particular focus on the growing use (and misuse) of the National DNA Database. Our response is now being circulated to the members of their Working Group. The Council plans to publish their report into these issues later this year - we'll keep you updated.

  • Freedom of Information Act and the BBC iPlayer - more consultations

ORG is currently working on two more responses to consultations: a Government consultation into amendments to the Freedom of Information Act , and a response to the BBC's On Demand Services Consultation. The proposed FOI Act amendments could keep valuable information out of the public sphere. And the BBC's provisional proposals for new iPlayer services have caused uproar thanks to the suggestion that they might only be available to Windows Media Player users. If you feel strongly about either of these issues, please help us respond.

  • IPRED2, or “The Prosecution Paradise Directive”

The European Parliament's Legal Affairs Committee, JURI, are scheduled to vote on IPRED2 next month, after much delay. The directive could make all types of intellectual property infringement a criminal offence. ORG wrote to all the UK members of JURI expressing our deep concern.

Press Relations

Every week, we spend time talking to the media and connecting them with experts or giving them an alternate point of view on current issues.

International Herald Tribune: 'Auto insurance set by when and where you drive' Thomas Crampton, with help from ORG, dissects the public enthusiasm for letting data about where and when they drive be logged by their friendly insurance company.

BBC: 'Will Apple pick iTunes locks?' A huge story this month. Steve Jobs claims he wants to drop DRM, but the major record labels will not let him. More a business decision than good sense prevailing, but a good moment for digital rights, as ORG gets a chance to highlight the anti-competitive and anti-consumer nature of DRM.

ZDNet: 'Government rejects calls for DRM ban' The government has responded to 1,414 petitioners who called for DRM to be outlawed with nonsense that these restrictions in fact provide good value. ORG points out that DRM does not respect user's rights so is bad for consumers.

BBC: 'Net giant supports open ID scheme' ORG board members Ben Laurie and Rufus Pollock comment on AOL's decision to back Open ID.

Slashdot: 'IPRED2 - Open Rights Group vs. Their Rights Online' Draft European legislation will criminalise copyright infringement that takes place on a 'commercial scale'. Yet another law which serves the corporate interest in protecting 'content' by restricting the public interest in sharing cultural obects.

Lots more articles listed on the ORG wiki

Events

Saturday 3 March: BarCamp Scotland, Edinburgh An ad-hoc gathering born from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment

Wednesday 7 March: ORG volunteer meeting, London Want to devote some of your time/skills/expertise to ORG as well as your cash? Come along to our volunteers meeting to find out what we're up to on e-voting and post-Gowers IP campaigning. Meeting starts at 6.30pm - email michael[at]openrightsgroup.org for more details.

Saturday 17 March: Open Knowledge 1.0, London Bringing together individuals and groups from across the open knowledge spectrum, including panels on open media, open geodata and open scientific and civic information.

Saturday 24 March: NO2ID Gala Benefit, Glasgow Heard the one about the government who want to force you to spend 90 odd quid on being branded like cattle? Join the top name performers who say 'No2ID' in this benefit show.

Wednesday 11 April: Support ORG! (and party), London A chance to meet ORG supporters and staff and enjoy public domain DJs, remixed visuals and free culture goodie bags. The rub? We want you to bring along a friend you want to turn into an ORG supporter. Includes very special guest speaker to be announced.

Mini-links We're always looking to make new links with other organisations, and publicise and assist in digital rights issues wherever we find them. If you know something you think ORG should be involved in, or the wider supporter network should know about, mail us at links[at]openrightsgroup.org. Or better still, tag it 'openrightsgroup' in del.icio.us or on your blog. We'll pick it up.

  • The Freedom Task Force A new project to provide licensing services to individuals, projects and businesses involved with Free Software.

  • The National Open Centre (NOC) A brand new national policy institute investigating ways to make effective use of Open Source Software and Open Standards (OS&S) in government and industry.

[Read more]


April 24, 2007 | Michael Holloway

Supporters Update - January 2007

News

  • Becky Hogge joins as our new Executive Director

Becky joined us on 15 January as our new Executive Director. She is ORG's first, full time member of staff. Says Becky "I'm really enjoying myself so far, although I won't pretend it isn't difficult gaining pace with all of ORG's ongoing activities. Suw's been a fantastic support during my first two weeks here, and I can't thank her enough. What's struck me most is the incredible level of enthusiasm among volunteers and supporters for what ORG is doing. It's just fantastic, and it really keeps me going."

  • e-Voting Campaign begins

On 29 January, the Department for Constitutional Affairs announced plans for e-voting pilots - including telephone and internet voting - for the May 2007 local elections . ORG was ready for them. Our new microsite contains everything you need to know about the perils of e-voting, and suggests ways to take action. We're now busily preparing for our season of e-voting related events, which starts on 6 February with a free screening of 'Hacking Democracy'. If you're in or around London next week, please drop by and say hello.

  • Taking the Term Extension battle to Europe

We're still glowing from the success of our Release the Music campaign in December, and the effectiveness of our submissions to the Gowers Review of Intellectual Property. But we're not resting on our laurels. And neither is the music industry. Whilst they feed the press with stories about IP enforcement, ORG is working behind the scenes with partners in Europe to make sure the Gowers message gets through. Expect to hear more in February and March.

Press relations

Every week, we spend time talking to the media and connecting them with experts or giving them an alternate point of view on current issues.

Vnunet 'Evidence guides Gowers to strike the right balance on copyright' "I think generally that the report makes some good recommendations and I am glad to see that making a private copy is now accepted," said Suw Charman of the Open Rights Group copyright campaign. More Gowers reaction...

Radio 1 Newsbeat> IFPI wants DRM on downloads to be "interoperable", but think "the market should decide". What can they mean? - A report about DRM including a short interview with Becky Hogge. ORG reaches a new audience!

The Register 'e-voting to be stripped bare at UCL event' Announcement that the Open Rights Group and the Foundation for Information Policy Research are teaming up to host events to raise awareness of electronic voting.

Slashdot: 'British E-Voting Pilots Announced' ORG's campaign against e-voting gets dissected on Slashdot, and survives! ZDNet 'Digital rights group slams e-voting' Jason Kitcat talks to ZDNet's David Meyer about what could go wrong in the May 2007 pilots.

Lots more articles listed on the ORG wiki. Special thanks to Jason Kitcat, ORG's e-voting campaign coordinator, for all his work with the press this month.

Mini-links

We're always looking to make new links with other organisations, and publicise and assist in digital rights issues wherever we find them. If you know something you think ORG should be involved in, or the wider supporter network should know about, mail us at links[at]openrightsgroup.org. Or better still, tag it "openrightsgroup" in del.icio.us or on your blog. We'll pick it up.

[Read more]