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