Supporter Newsletter: July 2015

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

DRIPA Court case success

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

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

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

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

Thanks again to all our supporters who made this happen!

One year of censorship monitoring

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

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

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

Freedom of Panorama defended

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

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

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

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

Encryption in danger in the UK

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

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

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

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

Caspar Bowden

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

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

Local Groups News

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

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

Find out if there is a group near you:

Quick Fire News

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

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

ORG out and about

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

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



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