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Hijinks Ensue

Open Rights Group

Danny O'Brien, Cory Doctorow, and several of the other Usual Suspects in the world of electronic rights have announced that they plan to create the Open Rights Group, which will be a UK-specific non-profit organisation dedicated to fighting the raft of stupid laws currently being proposed to restrict our digital freedoms. That means things like mandatory ID cards, enhanced wire-tapping abilities (eg. mandatory back doors in the encryption used for VOIP), mandatory vehicle-tracking systems (ostensibly so they can charge us more road tax, but who knows what else they will use the data for), and the EUCD (the European equivalent of the DMCA). It will primarily be focussed on educating people (especially politicians and journalists) about the realities of the complex technological issues involved. All too often, the only people who manage to effectively put their viewpoint across are the big corporations who stand to gain from the implementation of the stupid laws. That's because they can afford to hire expensive marketing consultants and PR firms to convince the public that we weren't really using our freedoms so we won't miss them when they're gone, we don't need privacy if we have nothing to hide, and the latest massive white elephant is guaranteed to stop the terrorists. The ORG hopes to tip the balance in favour of the people by employing a couple of full time technology experts to make our opinions heard ("our" meaning tech-savvy UK citizens). Probably the most important thing they will do is to provide an intelligent, respectable, coherent, single point of contact for the press. For example, if a reporter was doing a piece on ID cards, they could contact the ORG to hear our version of the technical issues involved, and be provided with a list of specialists who can back up our arguments with hard evidence. Or if a radio talk show was doing a debate about wire-tapping, the show's researchers would be able to contact the ORG and ask to be put in touch with somebody who is willing to take part and argue our corner. Other things I believe they plan to do include actively issuing press releases, helping to organise public campaigns, and helping other civil rights organisations with technical issues. In other words, it's going to do for the UK a lot of the things that the EFF does for the US.

The ORG needs your fivers! At the time of writing, 821 people (myself included) have pledged to donate £5 per month to the cause. They need another 179 before they can start the organisation. Personally I'm too busy/lazy (take your pick) to get involved in actively campaigning, so I look at this as a cheap way to make sure that somebody is working on my behalf to protect my rights and freedoms (because my MP - whom I didn't vote for - certainly isn't).