Newsletter from Open Rights Group

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We’ve only been back a few weeks from our Christmas holidays, and it’s already been very busy. We’ve launched two campaigns, produced a briefing for the Lords and helped to organise a number of Local Group events. As ever, thank you for your support.

New government jobs

We have launched a spoof recruitment campaign to highlight absurd proposals in the Digital Economy Bill, which will give the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) the power to classify and censor websites, just like they do for films.

The BBFC will decide if porn sites are checking and monitoring the age of their users. If they’re not, the BBFC can tell ISPs to block sites – even though their content is legal. The only problem is that the Internet is massive so the BBFC can’t be expected to do it all by themselves. So we’re running spoof adverts for Internet Censors, who can help the BBFC classify all of the adult content on the web.

The campaign launch coincides with the start of the committee stage for the Digital Economy in the House of Lords this week. Please share the campaign and sign our petition.


Don’t let Trump get his hands on our data

“I have made it clear in my campaign that I would support and endorse the use of enhanced interrogation techniques.” – Donald Trump, 15/02/16.

President Trump now has unrivalled access to data collected by UK intelligence agencies. And thanks to the UK’s Investigatory Powers Act, the UK is collecting huge amounts of data about all our lives in Britain and around the world – in bulk – and sharing it with the US.

Trump has threatened to use torture, ban Muslims from entering the US, and expand use of the death penalty. He has banned most refugees and suspended visas for people coming from seven majority-Muslim countries.

The Investigatory Powers Act is a careless law, passed by MPs who didn’t consider future abuse. The UK should not be complicit in sharing intelligence if it’s going to be used for human rights abuses. Please sign our petition to stop sharing bulk data with the US.


Whatsapp security

The Guardian reported in January that WhatsApp – owned by Facebook – has a “backdoor” that “allows snooping on encrypted messages”. However, after the article was published, it was clear that this flaw was not a backdoor that WhatsApp can use for routine access to users’ messages.  Our Campaigner Ed Johnson Williams, explained how it works here.

Lots of people recommend Signal as an alternative to WhatsApp. Unlike WhatsApp, Signal does not collect data about users and share that data with Facebook. Facebook’s business model is to collect as much data about people as possible to help sell advertising. And unlike WhatsApp, Signal’s code is open source meaning it’s possible to verify that it’s working properly.

It’s a struggle to get people to use secure messaging tools. Facebook and WhatsApp’s business model leaves much to be desired and Signal does a lot more to respect the privacy of its users. But WhatsApp have been successful in getting millions of people to encrypt the contents of their messages end-to-end.

Lords Committee slams data sharing powers in Digital Economy Bill

The Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee of the House of Lords has made some very critical recommendations about the data sharing proposals in the Digital Economy Bill.

The Committee asks for the “almost untrammeled” powers given to Ministers in the Bill to be severely curtailed, and for all Codes of Practice associated with these data sharing powers to be laid before Parliament in draft for full approval before coming into force.

We can see that the Government will resist such a move, as that level of flexibility appears central to their approach to data sharing. If they plan to ignore these recommendations, the Cabinet Office will need to include much stronger safeguards on the face of the Bill about the criteria and processes for inclusion in the data gateways.

Javier Ruiz Diaz (ORG’s Policy Director) has been speaking to the Cabinet Office and the Information Commissioner’s Office to press our concerns over data sharing.

Quick fire news

Launch of ORG Leeds
The Leeds group formed in response to the continued erosion of our rights to privacy and freedom of expression.

Repeal Section 40
ORG launched a petition to repeal Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act.

Digital Economy Bill briefing to the House of Lords
Read ORG’s concerns about the Bill.

UK ISPs to send piracy warnings
The biggest UK Internet service providers began to send the first round of privacy warning letters in January.

ORG out and about

ORG London: Trip to the Science Museum to see ‘Our Lives in Data’
Saturday 4th February, 3:30pm – 5pm
Join ORG London to explore how our online behaviour, our travel, and even our DNA is being recorded by interested organisations.
Science Musuem,
Exhibition Road,

ORG Cambridge: Digital rights meet up
Tuesday 7th February, 7pm – 9pm
Join ORG Cambridge for their monthly meetup to discuss the current state of digital rights, what they’ve done in the past month and what they are planning to do in the upcoming weeks.
The Castle Inn,
38 Castle Street,

ORG Birmingham: Learn how mobile phone users are spied on in Birmingham
Wednesday 22nd February, 6:30pm – 8:30pm
Join ORG Birmingham to look at how police are covertly using devices to indiscriminately intercept and hack up to 500 phones every minute.
Birmingham Open Media,
1 Dudley Street,
B5 4EG

ORG Aberdeen: Cryptonoise: how to protect yourself online
Thursday 23rd February, 7pm – 9pm
Join ORG Aberdeen to discuss digital freedoms and explore the use of cryptographic tools.
57 North Hacklab,
35a Union Street,
AB11 5BN

Still: Immersive theatre piece
Wednesday 1st March / Thursday 2nd March, 6:30pm / 7:30pm
Exploring the issues surrounding data protection, surveillance and internet identity.
The Old Market,
11a Upper Market Street,

ORG staff news

Javier Ruiz Diaz attended the launch of the VIRT-EU project in Copenhagen, where ORG will help develop a model for incorporating privacy and ethics in Internet of Things design and development.

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