Summer at Open Rights Group

1 July 2019 — Open Rights Group

The first half of 2019 has been strong for Open Rights Group (ORG). We have taken positive steps in challenging exploitative online advertising practices and protecting digital privacy. We are also getting ready for our biggest ever ORGCon London event taking place in less than two weeks!

The forgotten online harm: Damage to freedom of expression
The Government’s new plan to make social media safer gives Internet companies little choice but to scan all user content with automated systems, putting legal speech in the crossfire. If this sounds familiar, it’s because we’ve just been through the same story with the Copyright Directive. The only difference is this time the algorithms will be setting their sights on “harmful content” instead of copyrighted material. Today is the last day of the public comment period on the Online Harms White Paper. If you haven’t already, please tell the Government that social media regulation must protect the right to free expression.

Full ORGCON 2019 programme announced
With over 500 tickets sold and iconic mass surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden headlining, ORGCon 2019 on 13 July in London is shaping up to be our biggest and best ever. We’ve got four rooms of activism, talks, tech demos, and exhibits covering free expression online, mass surveillance, digital privacy and data & democracy. Check out the programme and get your ticket today if you haven’t already. We hope to see you there!

Challenging Real-Time Bidding 
Google and the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) found themselves in the Government’s crosshairs when the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) agreed with complaints by Open Rights Group and Dr. Michael Veale that AdTech real-time bidding systems give individuals “no guarantees about the security of their personal data”. As new complaints to data protection authorities from rights organisations across Europe continue to multiply, the ICO’s statement could set a global precedent. ORG is calling for the ICO to back up their statement with action.

Age verification rollout fizzles (again!)
In a major upset last month government plans to force online porn companies to verify the age of users have been put off yet again. The development occurred just a week after ORG published a report showing that the British Board of Film Classification’s (BBFC) Age Verification Certificate Standard fails to protect the privacy of 20 million adults that are estimated to watch porn in the UK. Meanwhile, Government plans to regulate beyond adult sites and age gate the wider Internet are gaining pace.

Police Scotland forge ahead with Cyber Kiosks
Despite the good faith engagement of Open Rights Group and other civil society groups Police Scotland are determined to roll-out the cyber kiosks. ORG have raised concerns that the kiosks are not human rights compatible in a report released last month and presented to the Justice Sub-Committee on Policing. Despite the concerns of ORG, Scottish Human Rights Commission and the Information Commissioner’s Office, Police Scotland say they intend to go ahead with roll-out later this Summer.

Biometrics Bill published
The Scottish Government published their proposed Bill to create a Biometrics Commissioner last month. ORG have been calling for the creation of a Commissioner for some time. While the Bill is welcome in principle, current proposals leave the Commissioner without sufficient powers to hold the Police to account for their collection, retention and deletion of biometric information. A Justice Committee call for evidence will be announced soon and Open Rights Group will prepare a response.

ORG around the UK

ORG Cambridge
Tuesday 2 July 7pm
Monthly Meetup: Join us to discuss digital rights issues & ORG’s current campaigns. All are welcome!

ORG Edinburgh Thursday 4 July 7pm
Join ORG’s Executive Director Jim Killock to discuss the Government’s Online Harms White Paper. The discussion will be followed by a social at a nearby pub.

ORG Norwich Wednesday 17 July 7pm
We’ll get a report on ORGCon 2019 and get to see/listen to highlights. We’ll also discuss running Healthy Digital Lifestyle pop-up sessions in central Norwich in August.

ORG Oxford Wednesday 24 July 6:30pm 
Learn about ORG’s GDPR complaints against Google & IAB’s real-time bidding systems in targeted advertising. We’ll also hear highlights from ORGCon and learn about current ORG campaigns.

Corporate supporters
We’d like to thank the following companies for supporting our work:

The Best VPN
VPN Review
Restore Privacy

Thank you for supporting UK rights online.

Mike Morel
Campaigns Manager
Open Rights Group

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