Snooper Charter Strikes Back event success

Jim Killock talkingEarlier in the week we had the pleasure of entraining Jim Killock, ORG’s executive director, ahead of a workshop on talking you MP about intrusive surveillance.

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Episode V: The Snooper’s Charter Strikes Back!

After the huge success of a packed out hustings the Open Rights Group have two
great events in one fantastic evening for our October Manchester Meetup.
Please spread the word.

A talk AND workshop about fighting the Snoopers’ Charter! Both are free to
attend, donations on the night are welcome.

Both events are on the evening of October 5th, in MadLab, Manchester. More details are on MeetUp.

6.30 to 7.30pm
Talk + Q&A: Open Rights Group’s Executive Director Jim Killock – ‘Fighting the
Snoopers’ Charter’

Break: 7.30 to 7.45pm

7.45 to 9.00pm
Workshop: Talking About Surveillance
We’ll be running a workshop on how you can talk to your MP.

You’ll come away from the workshop ready to talk to anyone about surveillance!

Please do let us know if you will be there, it makes our roles as organisers
much easier to know how many to expect. You can do this either on MeetUp or just by emailing
manchester -at- openrightsgroup -full stop- org

You are welcome just to turn up on the night of course, so see you there !

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Photo’s from mass surveillance, liberty & activism talk

Jim KillockLast nights very well attended talk covered an introduction to some of the worst abuses of our rights and privacy conducted by the UK and other governments, from hacking into the computers of our allies to indiscriminatingly recording every Yahoo video chat.

There’s an extensive write up from the Pirate Party on their web site, but some of the key takeaways were that

  • We must defeat mass surveillance at the political level, or it becomes a technology arms race with no end or winners
  • The Snoopers Charter is about giving police the same power GCHQ already has, and look how well that worked
  • If you can use mass surveillance to spy on everyone, why bother sorting out child poverty or other issues abroad?


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Mass Surveillance, Liberty & Activism talk

We’re kicking of our pre-general election campaign with a talk on the 24th February at MadLab :

ORG’s Executive Director Jim Killock will talk about mass surveillance, liberty and activism. He’ll say why mass surveillance is a danger to democracy and how we can work together to curb it.
This event is free and open to the public. You don’t need to be an ORG member to attend, just someone interested in an open and free internet.
If you don’t want to use Meetup you can email to RSVP.

Arrive from 7.15pm onwards for a 7.30pm start.

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Freeing the Internet: How hard can it be?

To follow up on Cory Doctorow’s recent talk, our next event is in November when award-winning journalist Wendy M. Grossman will join the Open Rights Group and Open Data Manchester to see how keeping the Internet free and open will require technology, law, and policy, working together.

Can it even be done? Come along and find out.

We’re in MadLab on Edge Street, November 6th at 6.30pm.

Tickets are free, but if you could sign up here it would be great to know when we’re full up:

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Press coverage from Don’t Spy On Us event

The Don’t Spy On Us event last month was very well attended, and was standing room only !

There’s a great review here from the BBC

Tom Watson told the meeting how he had not been aware of GCHQ’s alleged mass surveillance of email metadata revealed by Edward Snowden when he had been a defence minister, or when he had been at the Cabinet Office.

He said his colleagues in the Labour Party were deeply suspicious of his stance on mass surveillance.

“They think I’m some kind of crazy liberal idiot rather than a patriot who really cares about citizens’ freedom.”

I came across too.

The event overall was insightful and well worth attending, the Open Rights Group and other panel members groups aims are commendable.

Were you there ? Tell us what you thought !

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Come and see Cory Doctorow talk about publishing your work in the Internet

On Tuesday, October 7 at 7:00 PM we’re delighted to be putting on a joint event with the Manchester Literature Festival.

Credit :

Credit :

Author, activist (and ORG Advisory Council member), and journalist Cory Doctorow takes you through three simple rules for evaluating digital business models for creative people, and explains how the choices you make about your digital creativity resonate through the whole web of the 21 century’s electronic nervous system.

There will also be a chance to ask questions, and buy his books..



Tickets are limited, but I’ve managed to grab us a decent sized room in Waterstones on Deansgate.

Sign up for this free event here :

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Surveillance, where do you draw the line?

The Don’t Spy On Us campaign is coming to the Labour party conference in Manchester and asking the question “Surveillance, where do you draw the line?”

Join us for an evening of debate open to everyone. Free refreshments will be available as well.

Reserve your place at :

Rt Hon Yvette Cooper MP – Shadow Home Secretary (TBC)
Jim Killock – Director, Open Rights Group
Carly Nyst – Legal Director, Privacy International
Claude Moraes MEP – Chair of Justice and Home Affairs Committee, European Parliament
Tom Watson MP
Ewen MacAskill – The Guardian journalist who broke the Snowden revelations

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DRIP should RIP

Manchester ORG volunteer Chris was recently interviewed by Mancunian Matters

“The three [political] parties have come together against the populace. The concept of them being able to view things [we do online] is quite concerning.”

I believe there is a right to privacy. I don’t want to know what to know what people in the Government are having for lunch. All I’m asking for is transparency for an open society.”

Read the full interview on the Mancunian Matters site.


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Europe and digital rights MEP hustings report – part three

Closing speeches round off our coverage.

Afzal Khan – Labour

Afzal stated off by saying that we are in Manchester, a city that invented the computer, and that the pace of change is massive. We have phones that are more powerful than the computers used for the Apollo missions, and lenses that can see 500 miles away.

He finished off by stating that technology is positive, but that oversight is needed.

Laura Bannister – Green

Laura stated that what was occurring was simple – a fight for the commons, a fight for people over corporations, stating that the Green party is for people over profit. She went on to say that the Green party lost out on a seat by 0.3% last election, and that every vote really counts.

Jack Allnutt – Pirate Party

Jack stated that the Pirate Party stand for Liberty, and that digital rights are a part of that. He stated that he was there to ask and answer questions, and that the EU needs strong activists – and that the Pirate Party was there to be the technical arm of that, and to help guide the less technical parties.

Lee Slaughter – UKIP

Lee started off by saying that groups like the Open Rights Group are important, as we need to look over all the legislation together.

He also stated that Labour, Liberal Democrat and the Conservative Party are all the same.

Chris Whiteside – Conservative

Chris stated that the conservatives had been giving back rights taken away by the Labour government, and stated that he wanted to work to improve the infrastructure.

Robert Skelton – Socialist Equality Party

Robert stated that not only are we heading towards war, but towards dictatorships, and stated that democratic rights are only defended by the socialists. He reminded us that the 2001 Terrorism Act was used only a few weeks ago against anti-fracking protesters locally, at Barton Moss, and stated that the SEP had organised demonstrations in 91 countries.

My feelings and summing up

Robert Skelton – Socialist Equality Party

Robert seemed to have little understanding further than what he had read in the book about Snowden he was clutching. His rhetoric always returned to calling for the fall of capitalism, but could never give a decent point in the debate beyond a hollow sound bite. He boiled everything down to ‘Us VS Capitalism’, and promoted the SEP as the One True Way. It was disappointing to say the least, and somewhat embarrassing as someone who is fairly radically leaning, to see a performance that was closer to Robert parroting hollow propaganda than him actually answering questions and debating on a subject that he purports to be knowledgeable about.

Lee Slaughter – UKIP

Lee was well chosen by UKIP, as he was actually someone with an IT background, and for a moment, I was hopeful. He seemed, before the debate began, to be knowledgeable and intelligent, and I hoped, for a moment, that we might actually get some real debate out of him beyond ‘EU bad’.

Alas, I was disappointed. Almost every answer referenced back to blaming the EU, even electronic surveillance – forgetting entirely that it was the UK and the US who have been ousted as the biggest spies, not the EU. While he showed some understanding (especially around data mining and selling), he frequently missed the point entirely, and answered with either bad party rhetoric or a bad hack of a Winston Churchill quote.

Afzal Khan – Labour

Afzal seemed out of his depth. He frequently mumbled, and gave politicians answers, skirting the point, when he had little of substance to say. Even on areas such as the Police National Computer database, an area which, as an ex-police officer, he should have a solid understanding of, he was lacklustre to say the least.

Chris Whiteside – Conservative

Chris was confident, intelligent, and he understood the technical issues well. He spoke strongly around personal data rights, and the issues surrounding large databases, and while he isn’t someone I could vote for due to some of his stances, he was most certainly one of the most technically and issue literate people on the panel. He understood ours and the EU political system in depth, and understood that nothing is black and white, arguing for the need for oversight, and for debate rather than total control or bans. My one big negative, bar the standard conservative stances, is the fact that rather than have an informed understanding over the surveillance issues, he has swallowed his party’s line entirely, trotting out terrorism and lines like “our right not to be bombed”, pulling out emotive language and imagery rather than putting forward a real point.

That being said, he was highly evidence driven, and out of all of the Conservative candidates I have met, read about or talked to, he is the one that I would be most likely to vote for.

Jack Allnutt – Pirate Party

Jack was confident, strong, and knew his subject. He could see the points of debate, and the shades of grey. He understood the need for rights, oversight and some level of state surveillance, and was willing to work to understand and balance these.

My problem was that Jack, however great he was, couldn’t differentiate himself from the Green Party candidate, Laura, for me, and as soon as we got outside the arena of technology, into areas such as secondary legislation and the way that the political system functions, he couldn’t really answer. While I want (desperately) to be able to vote for the Pirate Party in so many ways, their focus is still too narrow for me to be able to throw my full weight behind them, and this showed.

Laura Bannister – Green

Laura spoke confidently and passionately, and spoke not only about shades of grey and more academic questions, but was able to back it up with personal experience and knowledge, such as her experiences at the Barton Moss anti-fracking camp, and her experiences of surveillance, the police national computer and terrorism laws. She was also quick to state if she didn’t know something, and was the only one to admit that, and say that she would go away and learn about it – which is something I commend, as it shows a willingness to learn that I feel is needed in all areas of life, but maybe political circles needs it the most.

Her down point was a lack of technical understanding at some points, a weakness that could be glaring against the Conservative and Pirate candidates, and her lack of research and understanding around important issues such as the Regulation of Investigative Powers Act (RIPA), which she knew nothing about. Considering this was a debate around technology, with a focus on state surveillance, this was a glaring error – however, it was one that she rapidly admitted, and was happy to say that she would correct it with study.

All in all, it was a fantastic event, which helped me decide who I want to vote for – I hope this write-up helps you to do the same, or at least makes you a bit more informed about the candidates and parties.

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