Supporter Newsletter

January 23, 2015 | Ruth Coustick-Deal

Supporter Newsletter: January 2015

This month we respond to a series of threats to digital rights as Lords attempt to slip in the Snoopers' Charter as 18 pages of amendments and David Cameron proposes harming encryption.

Lords try to sneak in the Snoopers’ Charter

The Counter Terrorism and Security Bill is being debated on Monday, but suddenly it’s turned into a totally different beast. Four peers have decided to insert the Snoopers’ Charter into the law, as 18 pages of amendments.

The amendments are nearly identical in form to the draft Communications Data Bill, which was previously scrutinized by a parliamentary committee who concluded that it was inappropriate. All the problems with the Snoopers’ Charter - that its figures were “fanciful and misleading,” that it, “pays insufficient attention to the duty to respect the right to privacy,” are still there.

Laying 18 pages of amendments before the Lords to insert the Snoopers' Charter into an already complicated Bill is an abuse of our democratic system. The Lords cannot have time to properly consider the bill, and would deny the Commons the opportunity to consider the clauses as well.

You can stop this happening! Please

1. Write to a Lord (they don't have constituencies, so you have to pick one at random)

2. Ask them to debate #SnoopersCharter on Monday

3. Send them our briefing

Sky switch on censorship

Sky Broadband have just announced they will automatically apply‘under 13’ level web-filters to all customers, unless the account-holder opts out. They say: "It's better for people to make their own choice, but until they do, we believe this process to be the safest one.”

Choosing on your behalf to cut off access to huge amounts of the Internet, is not what the Government agreed with ISPs. Sky Broadband’s explanations about filters do not offer an informed choice - they mention none of their disadvantages or limitations.

By imposing filtering as a default, they are using sneaky nudge tactics, knowing that most people just take the defaults given to them. This may just be to increase their uptake as only 8% of new customers have taken them up till now,

Far from being perfect, web filters block sites nobody could object to, while failing to block others that are unquestionably adult in nature. They are also conflating sites "deemed unsuitable for under 13s," a broad and subjective category with "adult content". It includes legal content like resources on sexual health and drugs.

Are you a Sky customer? Please let us know how the filters affect you. We’d love to share your story.

You can find out what sites are blocked on Sky using our Blocked tool.

Is encryption at risk?

Last week David Cameron declared war on encryption. His statement that there shouldn't be communications the Government can't read was the latest in a series of rushed reactions to the atrocities in Paris. We believe that we must protect our rights and freedoms, not throw them away when they are attacked.

The idea that law enforcement and security services should always be able to read communications is an impossible goal.

Cameron is seeking to pressurise companies to put back doors into encryption software, but he will find a great deal of resistance. Companies are unlikely to sacrifice tools that make their products effective. The prospect of lowering privacy and security across the globe begins to look bizarre and we hope that he will provide a full explanation of these proposals.

Vote for digital rights

As the parties puts surveillance on the agenda for the general election, it’s our job to stand up for your rights online.

Right now we are putting together our election campaign plans to stop mass surveillance, and we need your help.

The Government are acting as though privacy is a lost concept, but in fact it’s something that people rely on every day. For many people it is vital to feel safe online, whether that's wanting to search medical terms in confidence or contact Samaritans, and that's why we're concerned by requests for even more powers for security services, but also increasing use of surveillance powers by public bodies, and private companies.

We're not just fighting for privacy, but for giving people control over their lives.

That’s why we're going to be launching our election campaign soon to raise awareness about what’s happening to our privacy. However, we need more support to make it happen.

Join today and help us protect fundamental rights like privacy and free speech.

Thank you for your support of digital rights!

Best wishes,

Quick Fire News

ORG has signed up to an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief in a Microsoft case prepared by lawyers for Digital Rights Ireland in the ‘Microsoft warrant case’.The case involves US law enforecement seeking access to Microsoft email data held in Ireland. You can read more about our involvement in the case here.

European Digital Rights at Risk
EDRi, the European Digital Rights group are the umbrella organization of which ORG and 32 other digital rights groups are members. They do an amazing job providing policy expertise, and monitoring on Europe to all of us. However, EDRi’s existence is at stake. This year their current funding ends, if you can please donate to ensure they don’t lose their capability to fight on our behalf in Europe.

Your Next MP
Can you help with a crowdfunding election project? MySociety have built a site that’s gathering data about who’s standing at the General Election. This is a brilliant tool and we hope to use it for our ‘where do your candidates stand on surveillance?’ website, but they need your help. Could you improve your candidates' details. You'll be making a better data source for everyone:

ORG out and about

Copyright4Creativity, 20-22 January
Policy Director, Javier Ruiz has been meeting MEPs and European Commissioners to talk about the future of copyright.

ORG London - bringing justice on drone strikes
Monday 16 February, 19.30
Jennifer Gibson who gave a brilliant talk on drone strikes at ORGCon will be expanding on that subject and explaining the work that she does with Reprieve.
The Castle Pub
34-35 Cowcross Street EC1M 6DB

Coding for Social Change: Friday 30 January, 13.00
Executive Director Jim Killock will be speaking at a free public event to discuss the ways in which digital technologies are transforming society.
1-5pm, Birt Acres Lecture Theatre, Cardiff University.

Surveillance and Citizenship: 18/19 June
Deadline for submission of proposals: 15 February
A two-day conference and workshop series on the implications of the Snowden revelations for policy, technology, activism and media.
Cardiff University

Digital Conversations @ British Library: A Web of Rights: Thursday 19 February 2015, 18:00 - 20:15
Jim Killock, will be speaking at a debate on how and in what ways the web has changed the rights of citizens for better or for worse.
The British Library (1st floor Staff Restaurant)
96 Euston Road, London

[Read more]

November 03, 2014 | Ruth Coustick-Deal

Supporter Newsletter: October 2014

This month we are celebrating three brilliant wins as we bring transparency to web blocking on several fronts and format shifting and parody came into law. Plus, an opportunity to get free tickets to ORGCon2014.

Free ORGCon2014 tickets & three big successes

There are lots of reasons to join ORG. You can read below about our amazing successes: legal interventions achieving protections for transparency and mistakes. We’ve raised money to take the Error 451 project forward and Parliament brought format shifting and parody into law!

But right now there’s one excellent bonus reason to give us your support: A free ticket for ORGCon2014 to see Cory Doctorow and others give inspirational talks.


ORGCon is our annual conference for the digital rights community and a  great opportunity to see some of the legends of digital rights speak. Plus we have have a plethora of expert presenters from across the broad range of online rights interests – journalists, businesses, hackers, academics politicians, lawyers, activists!

Take a look at some of the interesting sessions at ORGCon2014:

You can see all this for FREE if you join ORG today:

(Details on your free ticket are in your welcome email. Alternatively buy your ticket here.)

Success 1:
Error 451 project makes court orders public

We would like to say a big thank you to all those who donated in response to our request to help us obtain and transcribe court orders on blocked websites. We're delighted to say that thanks to you we exceeded our target, receiving over £1,590.

Elizabeth, our Legal Director, recently went to the High Court and was able to collect 35 blocking orders ready to be transcribed. We’re proud to be able to finally start work on the transcription and make this information public. The first 6 have now been put up on our Error 451 site:

However, there are many physical pages of legalese that needs to be written up and made transparent.  If you have some legal experince and the time to help us transcribe the orders we would be very grateful.  It’s a big task, but with a Wikipedia-style team of volunteers we can make web blocking open.

If you are able to offer some time please get in touch by emailing

Success 2:
Format shifting and parody legal at last

On 1 October 2014, new rules for personal copying, parody, and quotation came into force in the UK.

This was a major victory for ORG after seven years of campaigning for these reforms. A big thank you to everyone who helped make this happen!

The first new exception for ‘personal copying’ means you can now backup your music collection, or even format shift it, (eg. turning CDs into MP3s) so long as it’s for your personal use. Breaking DRM, the anti-copying technology often built into DVDs and other media, is still unlawful. However, the legislation does allow you to apply to the Secretary of State if you want to remove the Digital Rights Management (DRM) access controls.

The law also includes a parody exception, which means you can use copyright material in order to create a spoof, pastiche or parody.

It's a brilliant win which means that comedy and criticial pastiche are at last protected. You can read more details about the new law here:

Success 3:
ORG's safeguards accepted in website blocking case

ORG's intervention had a significant impact on a landmark case about internet trade mark infringement that was handed down 2 weeks ago by the High Court in London.

The court decided that it could orders ISPs (Internet Service Providers) to block specific websites selling fake goods.

However, Mr Justice Arnold adopted the key ORG submission that such orders should always contain safeguards against abuse.
He also adopted ORG’s proposals that information on the blocking should be included on landing pages and there should be “sunset clauses” as safeguards against abuse. He thanked ORG for its “brief, moderate and helpful” written submissions. We're very pleased to be taking on this kind of work, and making an important impact on web blocking transparency.

David Allen Green, lawyer at Preiskel & Co LLP, who acted for ORG pro bono said that "We hope that this intervention will go some way to help ensure that future claimants cannot use blocking orders to restrict legitimate activity or free speech.”

The case was covered in the Guardian and Bloomberg, and you can read more details about it in our blog

Quick Fire News

As part of the 2014 Privacy and Security Inquiry, the ISC (Intelligence and Security Commitee) called witnesses to give statements on Tuesday and Wednesday. Among the witnesses called was Jim Killock, ORG's Executive Director, who spoke about how security services are undermining security for all through introducing backdoors, and the need for stronger oversight.

ORG Co-founder and Advisory Council member Cory Doctorow gave talks to ORG's local groups in Sheffield and Manchester this month. The Manchester group hosted at Waterstones as part of the literary festival and had great attendance, with book signings and lots of questions. You can get involved with your local ORG Group and put on events like this.

ORG has applied to intervene in the case brought by MPs Tom Watson and David David against the Government on the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act. The Government rushed the Act through Parliament earlier this year.

On 4 October, twenty people got together for ORG's digital-rights hack-day at Mozilla's community space in Covent Garden. Find out what happened and how you can help take the projects we started further. 

ORG out and about

Freeing the Internet: How hard can it be? Thursday, November 6, 2014 6:30 PM
Join ORG Manchester and Open Data Manchester for a talk on the evolution of the internet from Wendy M. Grossman - an award-winning journalist wars between cyberspace and real life for 20 years
MadLab 36-40 Edge Street, Manchester

Practical Privacy Tools for Everyone; Wednesday, November 12, 2014, 7:00 PM
Bring your laptops, phones and other devices. ORG Sheffield will help you to install and understand tools you can use to maintain your privacy online.
Access Space Unit 1, AVEC Building, 3-7 Sidney Street, Sheffield S1 4RG, Sheffield

15th - 16th November,
10:00 AM -5:30 PM
ORG’s annual conference is a brilliant place to meet other ORG supporters and to hear from incredible speakers on digital rights topics.
15th: Franklin, Wilkins Building, King's College London, Waterloo 
16th: The Foundry, Oval 

Open Source and the Cloud for Business 18th November, 14:00
ORG supporters from Brighton are organising and attending an event on Open Source and the Cloud for businesses and the public sector.
Sussex County Cricket Club, Hove, BN3 3AN

Join ORG today!

Join today and help us do even more to fight to protect fundamental rights like privacy and free speech.

YOU are what makes our work possible. Without support from donations we wouldn't be able to do any of the above work.

Thank you for your support of digital rights!

[Read more]

September 12, 2014 | Ruth Coustick-Deal

Supporter Newsletter: September 2014

This month we launched ticket sales for ORGCon and are delighted that Cory Doctorow will be giving our opening talk. We also take a look at the future of ORG in Scotland, revelations of RIPA abuse, and the future of copyright legislation.

Digital Rights in Scotland: Decision Time

As the vote on Scottish Independence fast approaches, we’re worried by what the lack of a strong network of rights organisations means for Scotland.

Day-to-day decisions involve digital rights issues. Do you buy the Smart Meter the energy company are pushing at you? Do you accept the Terms & Conditions for this free app you wanted? Do you share that video, that joke, that tweet?

Every week ORG are asked to comment on issues like these and address the big questions about who is watching us, where our data is going, and what we can freely say. We need to have the same ability to comment on and campaign about these issues in Scotland, and in the specific context of Scottish law.

We believe it is absolutely necessary for digital rights to be part of the discussion on the future of Scotland and an ORG Scotland office could help address these issues.

If you’d like to help us to build ORG Scotland, please encourage your friends to become a member.

We will also be at the Liberal Democrat Conference in Glasgow on Sunday 5th October.

The Don’t Spy On Us is asking the question, "Surveillance how do we reform RIPA and protect civil liberties?". Confirmed speakers include 
Julian Huppert MP
Eric Metcalfe - Barrister, Monckton Chambers
Paul Johnson - Deputy Editor, The Guardian
Jo Glanville - Director, English PEN
Jim Killock - Director, Open Rights Group

The event is open to everyone,conference delegates and members of the public alike.

100 Eastvale Place, Glasgow SWG3

RIPA misuse exposed

It was revealed last week that the Met police accessed the telephone records of The Sun's Political Editor, Tom Newton Dunn, using a RIPA request.

The case should end any discussion about whether or not metadata reveals anything personal about us: Newton Dunn's calls and when and where they were received, were seen as enough to identify a whistleblower, who contacted him over the Plebgate scandal.

Journalistic privilege, protected by the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, was circumvented by the use of RIPA. Newton Dunn was not even aware that his records had been accessed until the Met published their report into the Plebgate affair.

When DRIP was announced, Newton Dunn wrote in The Sun, that the new powers would give MI5 and cops, "crucial access to plotters' mobile phone records". UK public authorities use RIPA over 500,000 a year to access private data. The police refused to answer questions as to how many times they have have accessed journalists' data. When this is happening without our knowledge, we cannot ignore the threat to our civil liberties that data retention poses. 

Join us at ORGCon2014  this Autumn

ORGCon tickets are on sale! The early programme has been published, and we are pretty excited about this year's ORGCon. Join us on 15th-16th November at Kings College London.

There will be a keynote from ORG-founder, author, BoingBoing Editor and campaigner Cory Doctorow!

For the first time we’ll be having a second day where supporters can gather together to hack new tech projects, come up with campaign ideas and run their own sessions.

As the General Election approaches we’ll be talking about how to challenge a culture of surveillance. We’re gathering opinions and experts on the issue from all sides of the experience: home affairs representatives, those who have been victims of state surveillance, whistle-blowers and those who have suffered privacy invasion from stalkers, employers or the job centre.

We’ve sold a huge number of tickets already, and we still have so much more waiting to be announced. Please invite your friends along, ORGCon is a great place to talk about the current big issues of the Internet, make friends and meet with some amazing people.

Tickets for supporters are only £10:

Search Engine Law warning

Last week UK Culture Secretary Sajid Javid made some worrying declarations, threatening search engines with legislation unless they stop “sending people to illegal sites”.

In his speech to the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) he chose to make copyright enforcement the focus, laying out what the Government may have on the horizon. Sajid Javid informed us that he has written to Google, Microsoft and Yahoo asking them to stop “sending people to illegal sites”, threatening a legislative approach if he doesn’t see “real progress” on piracy.

However, we believe the close links between Governent and industry is concerning. All stakeholders involved, not just industry, including consumers and amateur creators must be considered in copyright enforcement.

Read Policy Director Javier Ruiz's thorough piece explaining why copyright is an fuzzy area, and examining Saijid Javid's speech in full.

Quick Fire news

We need your help to improve transparency around website blocking by court order. We've launched a fundraiser to support our project, 451 Unavailable, which will help ISPs make it clear why websites are blocked. We need all the court orders, but each one costs £10. Please consider donating to help us bring transparency to blocking.

ORG out and about

9 September - 10th September
Richard King, Project Manager, was in Istanbul delivering a workshop on censorship and surveillance.

Labour Conference, Sunday September 21st,  6.30pm.

Open Debate 'Surveillance, where do you draw the line?' with Labour MPs, MEPs and representatives of Don't Spy on Us.
Anthony Burgess Museum
M1 5BY

Digital Rights Hack Day, Saturday October 4th
10.00am - 9.00pm
Join us for a free hack day, we've got lots of ideas, projects to share, pizza and only a few places left.
Mozilla Office
101 St. Martin's London

Liberal Democrat Conference, Sunday, October 5th, 6.15pm
Open Debate 'Surveillance, where do you draw the line?' with Lib Dem MPs, MEPs and representatives of Don't Spy on Us.
100 Eastvale Place, Glasgow

[Read more]

June 23, 2014 | Ruth Coustick-Deal

Supporter Newsletter: June 2014

This month we celebrate a series of victories for standing up for your privacy. We've made ISPs sit up and listen on Data Retention, co-hosted the UK's biggest privacy event and hired our first legal position.

Data Rention: Keeping the pressure on ISPs

On Thursday we asked you to contact your ISPs to demand they stop retaining customers' email, SMS, web and phone data. In just 4 days over 1300 ORG supporters have done so.

The EU ruled in April that the Data Retention Directive breached the fundamental right to privacy. Yet the Government is still advising ISPs to retain the data. We've already seen ISPs set up new responses to our complaints action, so we know that they are paying attention - though we can see they are passing the blame onto the government.

It is for the courts, not the government, to decide whether the UK Data Retention Regulations should continue to be applied. And that's where we plan to be going next to take action to make ISPs stop retaining customer's emails, SMS and web data. The high level of customer concern may be helpful as evidence in any legal action ORG might take against the government.

If you haven't yet contacted your ISP – Please contact them to register your concern!

Don't Spy on Us success

Saturday, June 7 was the Don’t Spy on Us Day of Action to mark the anniversary of the Snowden Revelations. The sell-out conference, was the biggest privacy event of the year with #DontSpyOnUs trending on Twitter all day.

Highlights include Stephen Fry’s video message criticising the government for their “rancid” spying, followed by Cory Doctorow who argued “privacy for the weak, transparency for the strong”. Other speakers included Guardian Editor Alan Rushbridger and journalist Ewen MacAskill, both giving their accounts of breaking the Snowden story.

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales closed reminding us about global effective collective gobal action over SOPA: "We know how to change the world. Let's start doing it."

You can read our full report and actions from the day here.

Halting HMRC plans for personal data sales

We handed in our tax data sell-off petition to HMRC on May 15th, along with ORG Advisory Council member Julian Huppert MP and campaign groups 38 Degrees and SumofUs.

Over 300,000 people signed petitions, which were started by ORG, 38 Degrees and SumofUs after we found out that HMRC was considering sharing anonymised tax data for commercial research. Under these plans it is very difficult to give or withdraw consent. ORG supporters from groups across the country will be meeting their MPs this month to let them know this issue matters.

ORG is currently engaged with HMRC and the Cabinet Office in discussions around the sharing of personal data held by the Government. We'll keep you updated with how that's going.

Save the Date! ORGCon 2014

As soon as the Day of Action ended we were hard at work putting together plans for ORGCon2014. Our annual event is Britain's only digital rights conference, where activists, campaigners, lawyers, academics and experts gather in one place to stand up for human rights. This year's ORGCon will be all about putting digital rights on the general election agenda. We'll be launching our election work and have some incredible guests lined up for the event.

When: November 15th, Kings College London

Keep the date in your diaries and watch this space for early bird ticket sales and the first speaker announcements!

Classified: Out now

We'd like to invite you to watch our new film, CLASSIFIED, on the state of mass surveillance in the UK.

We expose the failure of the Government to oversee the agencies that are scooping up massive amounts of personal data in the name of national security. MPs including Dominic Raab, David Davis, Julian Huppert and Tom Watson admit they didn't know about the extent of surveillance until the Guardian published the revelations.

We're also running film screenings around the country at our local groups, so you can get together with ORG supporters to watch and discuss. You can also watch online or download here.

ORG's Legal Stream Kicks off

We're delighted to let you know that ORG's first legal staff member is in place! ORG supporters helped us fundraise for a full time Legal Director to work with ORG co-ordinating our legal work. We're very happy to welcome Elizabeth Knight to our staff.

Elizabeth is a solicitor with experience working for NGOs, as well as in the city and for the Government. Most recently she worked at Amnesty International where she authored a major advocacy document and worked on issues around surveillance. She practises litigation, which has included human rights, judicial review and intellectual property work.

We're excited about the upcoming legal projects planned. One of the major issues she will be working on is Error 451 and copyright blocking orders, and our data retention challenge.

Quick Fire ORG News

Thank you to all who helped with the European Election WePromise campaign. ORG joined with digitals rights groups across Europe to ask MEP candidates to pledge to sign the WePromise charter. The results are out and you can check on the WePromise site whether your new MEP stands with us.

Vodafone released their transparency report this month, announcing that they intended to help inform the debate on security and privacy. However, Vodafone withheld certain statistics about the volume of their own communications data. We believe it is important for everyone to be clear about the volumes and kind of requests they are getting.

The Cabinet Office is looking into removing barriers to sharing or linking different databases across Government departments. The rationale is that this can help Government “design and implement evidence based policy”. Policy Director Javier attended on your behalf to ensure rules of consent around your private data were discussed. 


ORG out and about

Freeing the Internet: How hard can it be? Monday 14 July , 6.30pm
Join ORG Edinburgh for a talk on the evolution of the internet from Wendy M. Grossman - an award-winning journalist who for more than 20 years has covered the border wars between cyberspace and real life.
Informatics Forum

10 Crichton Street
#noTTIP Demo, 12th July 2014
Join ORG as we take part in the UK Day of Action against TTIP
Department for BIS
1 Victoria Street, SW1H 0ET
12 noon

ORG Norwich Meet-up, Thursday 19th June 6pm 
Join us for a screening of Open Rights Group’s new short film, CLASSIFIED, on mass surveillance within the U.K plus a catch-up on ORG's national campaigns.
MMK Digital,

1 Labour in Vain Yard, Norwich

Javier Ruiz, Policy Director, is facilitating two sessions at the Open Knowledge Festival in Berlin, covering privacy and surveillance.

[Read more]

April 30, 2014 | Ruth Coustick-Deal

Supporter Newsletter: April 2014

We announce our Indiegogo success for a new campaign video on filtering and let you know about Quiz Your MEP events across the country. We're also celebrating the ECJ decision on the Data Retention Directive and looking for your help on the next steps.

Will your MEPs protect digital rights?

The European elections are on 22nd May and we want to know which candidates will stand up for your digital rights.

From ACTA to the Data Protection Regulation, most big digital issues are affected by European rules. How will candidates protect us from mass surveillance? Will they support your right to Internet access? Will they oppose censorship?

To answer these questions, you can attend one of our MEP 'Any Questions?' events being hosted across the country. This is your chance to ask your candidates where they stand on these issues.

We're also speaking to candidates from all the political parties and asking them to sign on to support the WePromise 10 point charter. So far 24 UK candidates have agreed to these principles!

We're having a real effect on making digital issues part of the European election agenda.

See the events list for details of events in your region.

Stop UK Censorship: Amazing response

We asked our supporters to back our plan to bring filtering back onto the political agenda. We were overwhelmed by the support we received to our fundraiser. Together we've raised £12,000 in just 2 weeks to allow us to make a funny, high-quality campaign video!

Every major Internet Service Provider is promoting filters, which censor the Internet, block sites by mistake and give parents a false sense of security. It happened without any parliamentary debate or scrutiny, let alone something as democratic as a Bill.

But thanks to you we're going to launch a campaign to make the public aware of this important issue. We are so grateful to everyone for contributing!

We’ve reached the target but still have one special offer. For £500 you can get your name in the film. Any other donations will help us promote the film to make sure it has as much impact as possible.

Data retention overturned

This month, we celebrated the ruling by the European Court of Justice that the 2006 Data Retention Directive is invalid. This decision will have huge effects for those of us fighting against mass surveillance.

Under the Directive, telecoms companies were obliged to hold location and traffic data, for up to 2 years. In the case brought by Digital Rights Ireland, the ECJ found that the Directive did not define enough restrictions to limit this intrusion into our privacy.

Significantly, the ECJ recognised that location data does, ''provide very precise information” on our private lives. The Court's recognition that metadata is very revealing will help us campaign in the UK and in Europe against mass surveillance.

Now that the Directive no longer exists, we are asking ISPs what they are doing. ORG has written to BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin to ask them to explain how they will be treating user data.

Help us challenge the Government

We are are looking to contest Data Retention regulations in the UK, if the Government claims they are still in force. Will you help us mount a challenge on Government surveillance?

We need a volunteer who would be eligible for legal aid and fits these criteria to help us:

  • An individual internet/mobile user, who is concerned about retention of their data by telecoms companiess and wishes to challenge the UK Regulations, on the back of the recent Digital Rights Ireland case.

  • If you have been particularly affected (e.g. by receiving 'illegal downloading' letters or similar) then that is even better, but not necessary.

  • To be eligible for legal aid then you must be on 'passported benefits'  (income support, income-based JSA, income-based employment/support allowance or universal credit) or on a low income, and must also have relatively low capital.

If this sounds like you, please get in touch and email

ORG Scotland planning day

Many supporters are concerned by the direction the Scottish Parliament is taking with civil liberties. There are a number of digital issues, from Entitlement cards to website blocking, that are the responsibility of MSPs. However, no rights organisation is currently working on these issues.That's why we've launched a campaign to fund opening an ORG Scotland office.

Whether we hire an activism organiser, a policy expert or a part-time Director, we hope to begin working on Scottish campaigns very soon.

We're holding an event in Edinburgh on Saturday 10th May to discuss the future of ORG Scotland and how to deal with devolved digital rights campaigns. Please come along to help support us and help make this project possible.

Quick fire ORG news

Quiz your MEP: European Digital Rights Hustings Dates

ORG-Manchester Hustings,
Tuesday 6th May, 6.30pm - 8.30pm
Friends Meeting House
Mount Street
Behind Central Library
Manchester M2 5NS  

ORG-Sheffield Hustings, Thursday 8th May 6.30pm- 8.30pm
St Mary's Church & Conference Centre,
Bramall Lane, Sheffield, S2 4QZ, Sheffield

ORG-Bristol Hustings,Friday 9th May, 6.30pm -  8.30pm
St Werburgh's Community Centre
Horley Road, Bristol, BS2 9TJ, Bristol

ORG-Norwich Hustings, Monday 12th May, 6.30pm-8.30pm
Norwich Quaker Meeting House, Upper Goat Lane, NR2 1Ew, Norwich

ORG-London Hustings, Thursday 15th May, 6.30pm - 9.30pm
Shoreditch Village Hall,
33 Hoxton Square N1 6NN, London

ORG-Brighton Hustings, Friday 16th May 2, 6.30pm - 8.30pm
BMEP Centre
10A Fleet Street. Brighton, BN1 4ZE, Brighton

ORG out and about

ORG Scotland discussion day with Charlie Stross, Jim Killock and others, Saturday 10 May, 12.30pm, 6.00pm
A discussion on dealing with devolved digital rights campaigns & how to reach out to communities across Scotland.
Informatics Forum

10 Crichton Street

ORG-Cardiff, Cryptoparty - Protect Your Online Privacy in the Age of Mass Surveillance, Saturday, 10 May, 2014 2.00pm - 5.00pm
Founders Hub,
119 St Mary Street, Cardiff  


[Read more]

March 13, 2014 | Ruth Coustick-Deal

Supporter Newsletter: March 2014

In this edition of the newsletter we celebrate Don't Spy on Us success as Lib Dems and Labour respond to pressure. Plus updates on the Censorship Monitoring Project and the European copyright consultation.

Big steps towards ending mass surveillance 

Thank you for supporting the Don't Spy on Us campaign. The effects of the petition and campaigning are beginning to show!

The Liberal Democrats have just passed a resolution to have a digital bill of rights. Nick Clegg has also commissioned a review of all the Edward Snowden files, and of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. The Liberal Democrat party conference also endorsed the 13 Necessary and Proportionate principles.

Labour are now asking questions about safeguards on privacy. The Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper spoke at Demos stating the need for debate. She asked:
What safeguards do we want against inappropriate surveillance or invasions into our privacy and liberty by the British police and agencies?”

Both parties are putting privacy on the agenda for the elections. This wouldn't have been possible without your influence.

These are encouraging signs that ending mass surveillance is achievable!

Please sign the petition at:

Help Fight Default Censorship

The Censorship Monitoring Project is our volunteer-led project, building a tool to monitor over-blocking on the default filtering system across the UK. 

We've been generously offered £3000 in matched funding to keep this project going, meaning every £1 you give becomes £2 this month, whether that's a one off gift or your first year's subscription!

We have raised £1200 in 2 days! This is amazing, and we're so excited by all the support for this work.
But we're only half way there. Please read more about the project and donate or join here.

The world we want

This year ORG have been talking to all our supporters, local groups, partners, allies, staff board and Advisory Council about our work and our future.

As a result of this strategy work we've been thinking hard about how we want to grow over the next three years. One of the first changes is our new definition of the world we want to see: It's our call to arms and our mission statement.

“As society goes digital we wish to preserve its openness. We want a society built on laws, free from disproportionate, unaccountable surveillance and censorship.” [read the rest here]

We'll be sending a poll out shortly to ask for your thoughts on our new ideas.

How should copyright work for you?

The European Commission ran a public consultation on the future of copyright this month. This was a great opportunity to reform legal and technical restrictions and call for real consumer rights. We believe that if you've paid for the content, you should be able to control it in the same way you do physical media.

However, there were some worrying suggestions in the consultation, including whether copyright holders' should control who links to their content. Under this proposal links on Twitter could then be in breach of copyright law. These kind of plans go against the very foundation of the World Wide Web.

That's why we're delighted that over 400 of the 11,000 responses to the consultation from across Europe came from ORG supporters. We're playing a key role in convincing the EU that people do care about Europe-wide copyright reform. The European Commission are planning on releasing a white paper in June in response.

Local Groups: national success

It's been an excellent month for ORG's local groups around the country. They are doing a great job of organising events and getting local attention onto issues like medical privacy and filtering.

On the back of our local activism training day in February, two new groups have started up in Norwich and Bristol. Norwich will be having their launch event on mid-april April with Internet and human rights experts, Paul Bernal and Wendy Grossman giving a 'state of the web' round-up.

Richard King, our Censorship Monitoring Project Manager will be touring many of our local groups this month. He'll be explaining the problems of filtering and what the project will be achieving.

If you are interested in getting involved with any of these groups please email us, and have a look at the ORG Out and About section for details of a meeting near you.

Quick fire ORG news

-We welcomed this week’s vote in the European Parliament to approve a Regulation on data protection. The Regulation will strengthen European citizens’ rights over their data.

-Javier Ruiz was in San Francisco last week for RightsCon, where he presented our PrivacynotPrism successful crowdfunding project. He also had meetings with other groups campaigning against mass surveillance, and discussed open data and privacy at the Responsible Data Forum.

-We recently asked our Scottish members if they'd like to see an ORG Scotland set up. If you live in Scotland and haven't answered yet, have your say here.

-ORG held a packed event at the Free Word Centre on the Day We Fight Back. On Tuesday 11th February 150 people took part in  the launch of Don't Spy on Us coalition campaign. They heard talks about the Snowden leaks, learnt encryption and secure data storage and signed onto the petition.

-Executive Director Jim Killock appeared on Sky News on Wednesday 12th March debating Tim Berners-Lee's call for a digital Magna Carta.

ORG out and about

ORG-Edinburgh; Internet Filtering, ORG's Censorship Monitoring Project Wednesday, 19 March. 6.30-8.00pm
Hear from Richard King who is managing ORG's Censorship Monitoring Project. What are the risks posed by filtering? And how can over-blocking be challenged?
Informatics Forum
10 Crichton Street

ORG-Manchester;  ORG's Censorship Monitoring Project Tuesday, 18 March. 7.00pm - 9.00pm
Hear from Richard King who is managing ORG's Censorship Monitoring Project. What are the risks posed by filtering? And how can over-blocking be challenged?  Town Hall Tavern
20 Tibb Lane, M2 4JA , Manchester  

ORG-London meetup; Threats to your medical confidentiality, Monday 17th March
7.00pm - 9.00pm
Phil Booth from Medical Confidentiality will be explaining the proposed changes to your medical privacy.
The Open Data Institute, 3rd Flood, 65 Clifton St, London 

Join ORG today!

Join today and help us do even more to fight to protect fundamental rights like privacy and free speech.

YOU are what makes our work possible. Without support from donations we wouldn't be able to do any of the above work.

Please join here now.

Thank you!

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February 10, 2014 | Ruth Coustick-Deal

Supporter Newsletter: January 2014

In this edition of the newsletter we announce big success in our legal fundraising, and our Privacy Not Prism case. Plus how you can defend your medical privacy and join the Day We Fight Back campaign.

You did it!

We're delighted to announce that  we have successfully raised enough to hire a full-time Legal Director!

We'll be recruiting for this position in the next month and are very excited about what this will mean for ORG. As Cory Doctorow wrote, “impact litigation can win victories that simply can't be won in any other way.”

Our supporter numbers have grown 40% in a year, with 200 in the last month! This show of support for digital rights will allow us to be more ambitious for the future, and start our full-fledged legal track.

You can still help out – there are always extra costs, including rent and fees for legal publications, that an extra contribution can cover costs for.

Your funding means we can campaign on privacy, surveillance, filtering and free speech. Thank you for promoting ORGLawFund and making it a success!

We're taking the Government to Court

We have really exciting news in our Privacy Not Prism case!

The European Court has completed its preliminary examination of our case and has now asked the UK Government to justify how GCHQ's practices comply with Article 8 of the European Convention: the right to privacy.

The court has also given the case a rare 'priority' designation. The Government has until 2 May to respond, after which the case will move into the final stages before judgment.

In September we submitted a legal action, with English PEN and Big Brother Watch, on behalf of all Internet users in the UK and EU against excessive state surveillance.

Daniel Carey, our solicitor in the case, says:
"This gives real hope to the public that the European Court of Human Rights will require reform if the Government continues to insist that nothing is wrong."

The Day We Fight Back

February 11th 2014.

You'll be seeing some big news from ORG released on the 11th! We'll be announcing Don't Spy On Us - the UK arm of a global campaign to fight back for our right to privacy.

Join us at the Free Word Centre in Farringdon for our launch event!

They'll be short talks, opportunities to take action, learn about encryption, secure your communications and ask questions to the experts on GCHQ practices.

Please tell us you're coming here:

Digital rights organisations from around the world are working together for a co-ordinated day of action. Together we're building a united voice against mass surveillance, and the biggest Internet protest in history. You can find out about how to take part in the online here:

Blocked Project Needs You

We held an event at the Mozilla hackspace on Saturday 18 January to develop our Censorship Monitoring Project. We had a fantastic day with 30 volunteers coming together to shape this new tool.

Default filtering is being out-sourced to third party companies and as a result we don’t know what, how or why sites are being blocked. We need to know, and you can help.

Our project intends to make it easy for anyone to check whether and where their site is blocked, scrutinising the new default filtering.

Whether it is coding, user experience testing, app design or spreading the word, please join up to our tech volunteers mailing list if you'd like to get involved.

Keep your medical records private

Radical changes to the way the NHS stores your medical records are about to take place.

Where your details are stored, who can see them and who will manage them are all due to be changed in the next months. Your records will be held centrally and then may made available to a variety of people and institutions: universities, think tanks and businesses. Sometimes this will 'anonymised', sometimes 'pseudonymised' and sometimes identifiable.

You need to actively opt-out, if you do not wish to have your data automatically transferred.

Read our blog on what is happening to your records and how to opt out.

You can learn more about the changes to medical privacy at ORG events around the country in Manchester, Sheffield, London and Brighton. Phil Booth from the MedConfidential campaign will be leading these talks and answering your questions.

Get involved with ORG's work

There are lots of ways you can get involved with ORG. Join or start a local group, write for the zine or help promote us.

Thank you for all your help. We can't do the necessary work we do without support from digital rights activists like yourselves.

Quick fire ORG news

-Javier Ruiz participated in a panel at the Computers, Privacy & Data Protection conference in Brussels titled "(Distributive) Justice vs Privacy - The Uneasy Tradeoff in Copyright Debates"

-ORG had a meeting with The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) who are now involved in mobile filtering. They run an appeals process and provide advice to filtering companies. We let you know how to complain about the overblocking on our blog.

ORG out and about

ORG Manchester; CryptoParty 2!
Thurs 6 February, 7pm
Part of the Manchester Free Software Festival, ORG-Manchester will be training you in staying secure and anonymous online.
36-40 Edge Street, Manchester

ORG-Brighton; CryptoParty - The Day We Fight Back!
Tuesday 11 February, 6.30 PM
With international actions, and a new UK coalition to stop mass surveillance launching on February 11th, we thought it would be an excellent idea to run a Crypto Party to show how to improve your personal security and privacy.68 Middle Street, Brighton

ORG-Sheffield; Changes to medical confidentiality
Wednesday 12 February, 6.30pm
We'll be discussing how to opt-out and stop your data from being uploaded to the new centralised record database. Shakespeare pub,
146-148 Gibralter Steet,

ORG-London meetup; Blinkbox, LoveFilm and Netflix: How DRM gets them all
Monday 17 February, 7pm
Internet TV expert Paul Thompson will be talking about his experiences working at major brands like Netflix and LoveFilm, nd why do the studios push for use of DRM?
The Angel
60 Farringdon Road

ORG-Manchester; Threats to your medical confidentiality: NHS
Tues 25 February, 7pm
Phil Booth from MedConfidential will be on hand to answer all your questions. Organised with FSFE Manchester and No2ID Manchester
Friends Meeting House
Mount Street
Behind Central Library
Manchester M2 5NS

ORG-Brighton: TA3M on MedConfidential
Monday 17 February, 6.30pm
Phil Booth from MedConfidential will be speaking changes to your medical records.
Venue TBC

We also do a weekly update on all things in technology policy and political developments for digital rights. Subscribe to get the weekly news in our Parliamentary & Policy Update.

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December 16, 2013 | Ruth Coustick-Deal

Supporter Newsletter: December 2013

In this November/December edition of the newsletter we celebrate a key announcement on parody, the Necessary and Proportionate and a big milestone for ORG's supporters.

This is our last newsletter of 2013! We'd like to thank you for campaigning with us throughout the year and for all you've helped us achieve. Together we stopped the Snoopers' Charter, took PRISM to court, challenged online censorship, exposed private data sales and more. We look forward to more campaigning with you in 2014 and wish you happiness in the holiday season!

Support privacy principles 

Across the globe 300 civil liberties groups have united in response to the revelations of mass surveillance on citizens by security services and intelligence agencies.

This month the International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance were announced.

The 13 'Necessary and Proportionate Principles' explain how international human rights law applies to governments engaged in communications surveillance. They should be the framework for change around the globe.

The principles were drafted by civil society groups, surveillance experts and NGOs from around the world, including ORG.

Can you join people from around the world and add your name?

Parody exception promised

Despite several Government consultations since the Hargeaves Review in 2011, we are still waiting for the promised copyright reforms to be put into law.

This month responding to the delays we wrote to the Minister, Lord Younger, urging him to get on with the long-promised changes.

The reforms we are seeking are relatively modest. These include 'exceptions' for people with disabilities, parody and format shifting.

Lord Younger told us in reply that the Government intends to lay the regulations before Parliament next year, for commencement in April, including the proposed exception for caricature, parody or pastiche.

We haven’t won yet, but this commitment to keep parody in the mix is a positive step forwards.

Milestone for ORG: 2000 supporters 

We are really proud of what we've achieved in 2013. Take a look at our milestone blog to read the full list of victories in 2013.

We've become louder and more effective at defending your rights. We've seen an enormous amount of interest in our campaigns, with unprecedented numbers responding to Government consultations through us, and thousands signing our petition against mass filtering of the Internet.

The greatest growth has been in our brilliant community of supporters who have helped make real impact on technology laws: We are very close to 2000!

 Help us keep this work going and take on greater capacity to fight on your behalf. If you haven't already, please join here now.

Backroom deals on 'extremist blocks'

The Government want ISPs to block access to 'extremist' content, according to the report of the "Extremism Taskforce", set up after the killing of Lee Rigby in Woolwich.

Website blocking has become the go-to button for politicians to press when they need to be seen reacting strongly to media outcry.

However, as far as we understand, no freedom of expression groups have been involved in planning the changes.

The Government's policy on extreme content can't just be that ISPs should block sites that have been classified as extreme by some secretive government body. The term 'extremism' can be used broadly enough to include any political activists. Whether by accident or abuse content that has little to do with terrorism and national security will be censored.

Help our report on  business impacts of Snowden revelations

We want to hear how UK organisations think the recent surveillance revelations have impacted their business or work.

Are you dealing with data protection, confidentiality, trade secrets, intellectual property or encryption worries? Are you concerned about and less likely to use cloud services? Or are you simply unable to see a reasonable way to manage these risks?

ORG are preparing a report into how mass surveillance effects UK businesses and we'd love your help in providing evidence. If this doesn't apply to you, do you know anyone who would be able to speak to us? Find out more on our campaign page.

Encryption events: National Success

ORG took part in a number of CryptoParties across the country in November. Our local groups did an amazing job of organising  events and teaching people the encryption and the current surveillance situation.

Brighton CryptoFestival – Jointly organised with Lighthouse, a kid-friendly day with talks, workshops and Lego

London CryptoFestival – Organised by Dan McQuillan this big event had some fantastic speakers including Ian Brown and Wendy Grossman from ORG's Advisory Council.

ORG-Manchester CryptoParty – The Manchester group had a great time using giant postcards, games and cake to teach people about preserving privacy.

ORG-Sheffield Practical Secure Email session – The Sheffield group focused specifically on secure email communications.

ORG-Bath cryptoparty - ORG supporter has training retired members of the Bath University of the Third Age on passwords, Truecrypt and back-ups.

If you are interested in getting involved with any of these groups or events, please email Open Rights Group.

Quick fire news

-Jim Killock, Executive Director spoke on BBC News and Sky News live on Monday, reacting to the story that the world's biggest tech companies united to demand surveillance reform.

-Last week saw the Advocate General declare the Data Retention Directive incompatible with the European Charter of Fundamental Rights. ORG provided some important background on what this means for our privacy rights.

-Nominet announced this month that they are going to press ahead with the new .uk domain name registries. We responded to their consultation that this decision to create a new domain name is an extra cost on uk businesses and are disappointed with this decision. 

-Our parliamentary and policy update every Friday is a great way to stay up to date on all digital policy news, subscribe here.

ORG out and about

ORG Christmas Party, 16th December, 7pm onwards
Join us for nibbles and drinks at the Green Man!
383 Euston Road, London

Labour Campaign for Human Rights, Tue 17th December, 6.30-8.30pm
Jim Killock is speaking on a panel at debating: "GCHQ and the fight against terrorism: does UK surveillance go too far?"
Committee Room 6, Parliament

Computers, Privacy and Data Protection, 22-24 January
Peter Bradwell, Policy Director, and Caspar Bowden will be presenting at this conference on reforming data prtection.
Brussels, Belgium

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