September 19, 2013 | Ruth Coustick-Deal

Supporter Newsletter September 2013

This month's newsletter looks at new revelations from Snowden about attacks on Internet security, positive developments against online censorship, the UK Lobbying Bill, ORG's response to the Nominet consultation, and more.

To receive these updates straight to your inbox in newsletter form, sign up to the Open Rights Group mailing list which you can do so from our home page.

Undermining the fabric of the Internet

Burnt disused bank vault

Burnt Bank Vault, Adam Lederer, Flickr, CC-BY-NC-SA

The revelations from whistleblower Edward Snowden keep coming. The Guardian's reports of NSA and GCHQ attacks on fundamental Internet security really matter. It appears that the security agencies covertly insert vulnerabilities that weaken the security of technical systems for everyone, not just their targets. These are the basics of trust on the Internet; the reason you trust your bank not to leak your information to criminals, blackmailers or governments.

The vulnerabilities they've inserted will be abused by others. Thus the real impact will not just be on security, but also economics.

Whilst the NSA/GCHQ surveillance scandal remained mere 'national security', the UK could tell the European Commission to back off.

But the economic consequences could help us get the EU to investigate. It affects millions of European citizens, and we will push hard to get the EU to acknowledge this.

We need your views! 

Can you give just a few minutes to ORG and provide us with some feedback on our work?

Take our survey now!

ORG are going through a period of evaluation and strategy to shape our direction for the coming years. As an engaged activist we want to hear your opinions on our work. Do you think there should be more local meetings, subject briefings or staff updates? Let us know what you would like to see from ORG!

No tax on websites

Nominet, the UK domain registry, are consulting the public on their proposal to allow people to register domains with just '.uk' suffixes.

ORG have responded to say that we see no benefits in these plans, for those Nominet should be serving: website owners and users. It adds yet another cost to website owners, yet another domain name to purchase.

The only benefits we can see are for Nominet and registrars: they will get more  income. This cannot be a justification for what amounts to a new tax on website owners. We have therefore once again urged Nominet to drop these plans. You can also reaspond on the Nominet website, so head over there to have your say!

Real action on Internet filters

When the Government proposed default internet filtering we insisted that civil society be involved in the discussions of any kind of censorship. Instead, when the Secretary of State Maria Miller met with Internet Service Providers without us the discussions were dominated by Claire Perry MP, who said that over blocking problems are 'a load of cock'.

As the Government has failed to look at the difficult issues we sent 20 questions to ISPs about how their Internet filtering will work. We have been promised answers and will be meeting with the ISPs shortly.

Last week we met with Ed Vaizey MP to discuss these questions. At the meeting he mentioned that he wanted to make sure error correction is dealt, and he also raised this at the Internet Governance Forum. Dealing with mistaken blocking under these plans will not be easy.

Lib Dems reject Censorship

At their party conference in Glasgow at the weekend, Liberal Democrat party members voted to reject the policy of default-on Internet filters. The pressure we've been putting on, the consistent voice calling for freedom of expression has paid off.

Thank you for signing the petition and telling MPs that we won't let censorship slide in this way. Please keep helping us spread the word and ask your friends to sign!

Lobbying Bill: a threat to campaigning

ORG joined many organisations working for greater government transparency and openness in the UK and around the world in an open letter to the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister about the UK’s proposed Lobbying Bill.

The Lobbying Bill is a serious threat to campaigners and charities, chilling campaigning work.

It also fails to do the very thing it set out to do: ensuring that UK lobbying is transparent and regulated. Our letter called for the Government to redraft the Bill in a way that would give citizens the genuine opportunity to scrutinise lobbying.

Coders! Join the Censorship Monitoring Project

ORG are already fighting the existing default censorship on mobile phone networks. We run, a project which allows you to report when a site has been incorrectly blocked. We are building on that capability to create a raspberry pi/Ooni Probe hybrid which can automatically check the availability of websites on different networks.

To join in and help shape and build the project, please join the tech-volunteers discussion list: sign-up here and introduce yourself. You can read more about this project and pitch in on the Wiki and our site.

Support our essential work today!

With all that is going on, NOW is the time to join ORG

Help us keep this work going and take on greater capacity.

We can't do the necessary work we do without support from digital rights activists like yourselves.

News in brief

Big, open and personal

Javier Ruiz, Campaigns Director, spoke at the Open Knowledge conference this week on the conflict between openness and personal privacy. He explored what tools best keep people in control of their data, while supporting open governance and the benefits of shared data.

Ada Lovelace Day discount!

Ada Lovelace Day is the annual celebration of women in science, technology, engineering and math. The event features live demos, biomedical wonders, neuroscience, inspiration, laughter and song. The organisers are offering a special £5 discount for the ORG Community. Anyone who uses the code 'org' will get £5 off the General Entry ticket (£15). Ada Lovelace Day takes place Tuesday 15th October, 18.00- 23.00.

Child rights and data rights?

Javier Ruiz, Campaigns Director, and Andy Phippen, from our advisory board, were at the Internet Governance Forum UK debating how we can balance online data protection with children's rights. The discussion covered many issues but centred on proposals for default adult filters. No-one in the panel, which included Susie Hargreaves, CEO of the Internet Watch Foundation, and Simon Milner from Facebook, supported mass filtering of legal adult content. The question we put to Alun Cairns MP, who did a great job at chairing the meeting, was why the government keeps pushing this policy with so little support.

ORG out and about

Horizon, Midata, Tue 24th September
Peter Bradwell will be taking part in a workshop on how Midata can be used to build useful services.

The Public Voice, Tue 24th September
Jim Killock will be taking part in an international discussion for privacy experts on responding to Snowden revelations.

Freedom Not Fear Conference, 27th - 30th September
Javier Ruiz will be taking part in a panel on the Naked Citizens data protection campaign.

Rally for Liberty, Sun 29th September, 11am - 1pm
Jim Killock, Executive Director, will be speaking at this Pirate Party organised rally. Join ORG at the event!
Greengate Square, Manchester, M3 7NJ

Oggcamp October 19th
Jim Killock will be speaking about the NSA/GCHQ revelations at this open software barcamp
LJMU Design Art & Design Academy, Liverpool 

ORG at the Party Conferences

Labour Party Conference, 
Tuesday 24th September, 5.15-7.00pm
The Guardian, Big Brother Watch, ORG and Tom Watson discuss the future of Labour policy on surveillance. If you can volunteer to help, get in touch. Free transport to Brighton available.
Thistle Hotel, Kings Road, Brighton

Conservative Party Conference,

30th September
ORG & Big Brother Watch: The Snooper’s Charter and freedom of speech - has Britain surrendered its international moral authority?
THE BRIDGEWATER HALL, Lower Mosley Street, Manchester M2 3WS