February 2020 Newsletter

From an astonishing reversal for the EU Copyright Directive to emerging privacy threats from post-Brexit trade deals, the 2020’s started with a bang for UK digital rights. In January Open Rights Group (ORG) was busy as ever meeting these challenges and more. Read on to get caught up on all things ORG.

Surprise shelving of EU Copyright Directive?

Nearly a year after many UK MEPs aided passage of the dreaded EU Copyright Directive, which opened the door to automated upload filters that damage free speech, the UK Government infuriated opponents and proponents of the Directive alike by suddenly dropping plans to implement it. ORG campaigned fiercely against the Directive so welcomes the news, but the threat of algorithmic copyright enforcement remains. Rightsholder interests are certain to push for similar laws domestically.

ORG puts UK political parties on notice

ORG supporters sent thousands of subject access requests to UK political parties during the 2019 General Election demanding to see what personal data was being held on them. If you made a request for your personal data and received a response from the parties, click here to play a part in ORG’s project to restore integrity to UK elections. ORG also commissioned a poll that revealed a majority of UK residents were opposed to dark ads and political micro-targeting. The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Electoral Campaigning Transparency recently adopted ORG’s electoral reforms.?

New chance for data justice in “immigration exemption” appeal?

ORG and the3million continued to pursue legal action against the Data Protection Act’s unjust “immigration exemption” after a UK court granted our appeal to be heard. As millions of EU nationals fill settled status applications to remain in the UK, this is our chance to convince the Court that the exemption breaches fundamental rights by denying legal residents access to their personal data. Please help us reach our goal of £15K to cover legal fees.

Opposing Police Scotland’s cyber kiosks

ORG and Privacy International called for a halt to Police Scotland’s roll out of cyber kiosks in the absence of an overarching legal framework for the seizure of electronic devices in line with human rights standards. Access to our mobile devices means access to our photos, videos, contacts, messages, notes, calendars, browsing history, even our locations. The legal system in Scotland is not fit to respond to that level of intrusion. Meanwhile, the Scottish Biometrics Commissioner Bill passed the first stage of debate and incorporated several of ORG’s recommendations.

Commemorating Data Protection Day?

On Data Protection Day 28 January ORG called on every Member of Parliament to commit to safeguarding digital privacy rights in the post-Brexit era. As the UK negotiates new international trade agreements, there will be pressure from many sectors, such as insurance, bank credit agencies and some large internet companies, to lower standards. Intense pressure will come from the US government, who will want to make ‘data flows’ more important than ‘data protection’.

ICO blinks on AdTech?

In January the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) announced they were taking minimal steps to enforce the law against massive data breaches taking place in the online ad industry (AdTech). Threatening legal action, ORG Executive Director Jim Killock said, "Last year the ICO gave a deadline for an industry response to our complaints. Now the ICO is falling into the trap set by industry, of accepting incremental but minimal changes that fail to deliver individuals the control of their personal data that they are legally entitled to.”

Online age checks overhauled

The ICO’s new Age Appropriate Design Code reflected ORG's concern that their plan to protect children’s privacy online could backfire by saddling adults with the burden of proving they are over 18 and curtailing free expression. The changes are welcome, but it remains unclear whether the new plan will create barriers to adults reaching legal content, including news, opinion and social media. With so much at stake, the public and Parliament need a thorough debate, rather than sneaking in a change via parliamentary rubber stamping with potentially huge implications for the way we access Internet content.


Is ethical AdTech possible?

ORG hosted a roundtable discussion at the annual Computer Privacy and Data Protection (CPDP) conference in Brussels asking whether privacy friendly ethical alternatives to mainstream advertising technology (AdTech), which targets Internet users using their personal data, can work and generate revenue for online publishers.?

Digital trade vs digital rights

ORG Policy Director Javier Ruiz joined Duncan McCann of the New Economics Foundation in London to discuss how post-Brexit free trade agreements may weaken data protection and the accountability of algorithms and instead favour the trade secrets of businesses. Watch their presentations here and here.

Join a local ORG group in your area

Local ORG groups meet in cities across the UK and are made of people like you who are concerned about losing freedoms in the digital age. We’ve got upcoming events in the following cities:

ORG Cambridge Tuesday 4 Feb

ORG GlasgowMonday 10 Feb

ORG London Monday 10 Feb

ORG Norwich Wednesday 12 Feb?

We’d like to thank our newest corporate supporter MiniTool for their support of ORG! Also big thanks out to Elegant Chaos for renewing their support!

Thanks for being part of the movement to protect digital rights.