On Monday evening we held a screening of The Haystack surveillance documentary at Birmingham Open Media, followed by a discussion of what the recent Brexit vote means for digital rights.
You’ve probably heard by now that earlier today (1 March) the Home Office has published the revised Snoopers’ Charter / Investigatory Powers Bill less than three weeks after three reports by MPs and peers made 123 recommendations for changes.
On first reading, the revised Bill barely pays lip service to the serious concerns raised by the committees that scrutinised the draft Bill. The Bill still includes police powers to see which websites and apps we use, and bulk surveillance powers for GCHQ – it needs serious improvements.
You can find out more on the Don’t Spy On Us coalition website.
Ask your MP to stand up to the Home Office
Now that the Home Office has published the Bill, we need MPs to stand up to the Home Office’s attempts to ride roughshod over parliamentary scrutiny and avoid having a proper public debate.
You can help by contacting your MP to tell them you are unhappy about what the Home Office is doing and asking them to make sure the Investigatory Powers Bill is not rushed.
The national Open Rights Group has created an easy-to-use form for emailing your MP:
Remember, you don’t have to write a lot, the most important thing is to contact your MP as soon as possible to remind them that the Home Office should not rush the Investigatory Powers Bill should not be rushed through parliament. The main messages to include are:
- The Investigatory Powers Bill should not be rushed. The Home Office has been told to examine carefully the criticisms and recommendations of three Parliamentary committees. Less than three weeks is not enough time for a considered redrafting of the Bill. The new Bill only has a few significant changes from the draft version.
- The new powers for the Police to access our ‘Internet Connection Records’ – a database of our online activity in the last 12 months – is invasive and unneccessary. Internet Service Providers, web hosting companies, and parliamentarians have been critical of this power.
- The arguments made for bulk collection powers and Internet Connection Records are built on anecdotes. The operational case needs to provide figures, costs, and be open to scrutiny.
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The Open Rights Group needs your help! Please read on for how you can help stop the government passing the seriously flawed Investigatory Powers Bill.
This is less than three weeks (!) since the Joint Committee set up to review the bill published a report calling on the government to make significant changes to the bill, including:
– Strengthening privacy safeguards
– Clarifying the government’s position on encryption, which is essential to modern life and the digital economy
– Making the case for mass surveillance/bulk collection of everyone’s data in a way that is legally compliant with the UK’s obligations to protect the right to privacy
You can read more about the committee’s recommendations over on the Open Rights Group website.
These are complex issues and the stakes are incredibly high – our civil liberties and national security are at stake. It is difficult to believe the government has given itself enough time to take on board the feedback it has received. Instead, the government is giving the impression that it is determined to pass the Investigatory Powers Bill at any cost, in order to free up more time to focus on higher profile issues, such as this summer’s referendum on EU membership.
Take action – email your MP today!
If we are stop the government rushing through the Investigatory Powers Bill, we need to gain the support of MPs.
You can help by emailing your local MP to let them know you are concerned about the government’s plans to rush through the Investigatory Powers Bill.
You can easily find out who your local MP is and email them directly via the excellent WriteToThem website.
Please don’t let the technical aspects of the surveillance debate put you off contacting your local MP. Simply letting your MP know you are concerned about the government’s approach and asking them to consider the issues will make a real difference.
Wherever possible, please include in your email a link to the guidance the Don’t Spy on us coalition has produced for parliamentarians. This explains in more detail the problems with the Investigatory Powers Bill and what MPs can do to make the bill fit-for-purpose.
When writing to your MP, remember to be polite and encouraging, not rude and demanding. Respectfully making your local MP aware of the issues surrounding the bill is the best way to build support for an Investigatory Powers Bill that is truly fit-for-purpose.
With there being just 3 more sleeps to go until Open Rights Group Birmingham (ORG Birmingham) launches on Wednesday (if you haven’t signed up yet, you can do so from here), I wanted to share with you some interesting updates.
Here comes the merch
Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, the central team at ORG have kindly sent me what can only be described as a motherlode of merch. Should you be able to make our meetup on Wednesday you will be able to get your hands on some rather nifty looking ORG stickers and leaflets to help you spread our message on digital rights far and wide. I hope you’re excited about the merch as I am.
Secondly, I had a good chat during the week with Lydia Snodin, ORG’s local groups coordinator. Lydia’s given me some tips and generally boosted my confidence about hosting our first ever meet-up.
While our first meet-up is most definitely intended to be friendly, relaxed and informal, Lydia has recommended we work to a basic structure so that everyone gets a chance to contribute and we make the most of our time together.
Here’s my first attempt at an agenda. I’ve tried to structure our meetup so that the most important bits happen early on so that people who need to leave early can still contribute. As ever, your feedback is very much appreciated.
6-6.30: Arrival and registration/sign-up
Introduction to the Snoopers’ Charter and what it could mean for digital rights.
Keep Yourselves Refreshed – BYOB policy
I am reliably informed our hosts for the evening, Birmingham Open Media (BOM), will be able to make us a cup of tea or coffee. Beyond that, they might struggle as we will be using the venue out of hours and access to facilities will be limited.
To keep things fun, I’ll be doing my best party host impression and will supply some snacks and soft drinks. If you’re thinking of coming it would be great if you could bring along some snacks and drinks. BOM are pretty relaxed about people bringing alcoholic drinks into the venue provided we are responsible. If you can stretch to bringing refreshments for you plus one more, we should have plenty of food and drink for everyone to enjoy.
I am proud to announce Open Rights Group Birmingham will be holding its 1st ever meet-up in just over a week’s time, after work on Wednesday 8th July.
Birmingham Open Media (BOM) have very kindly agreed to host our meet-up for free, which is fantastic. If you’re not familiar with their work, please do check them out.
The meet-up will be a relaxed, informal affair. It’s a chance for people with an interest in digital rights and open technology
to meet each other and figure out how we can work together to protect and promote digital rights in Birmingham and beyond.
By the end of the meet-up we should have a clearer idea of the issues we think Open Rights Group Birmingham should be focusing on and the next steps we will take to make progress on these issues.
Quite a few people have already expressed an interest in meeting up and forming an Open Rights Group Birmingham. It would be great if we could get as many people as possible along to the meet-up. I would be grateful if you could help spread the word by sharing this blog post and, if possible, printing and displaying a copy of the meet-up poster.
Admission is completely free but it would be helpful for planning purposes if you could let me know if you are thinking of coming. Francis Clarke. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @francisclarke or Phone: 07749374339.
You can download a print quality version of the poster by clicking here.
ORG Birmingham local organiser, Francis Clarke