With Britain still in the throes of Covid-19, 2021 was a truly unique year for the movement to protect our digital rights. As we look back on our challenges and triumphs, Open Rights Group (ORG) has all our members and supporters to thank for making it happen. Thank you!
Preventing a Digital Police State Image Credit
In early 2021, after the Cabinet Office proposed a dramatic expansion of Police data-matching powers via the National Fraud Initiative (NFI), a chorus of ORG activists echoed ORG’s demand for limits on Police access to personal data. Left unchecked, the plans would widen the NFI’s scope far beyond its anti-fraud mission to include virtually any other criminal activity – in effect creating a Digital Police State.
After a petition calling for ID requirements to open a social media account triggered a debate in Parliament, in March hundreds of ORG members and supporters reminded their MPs how anonymity underpins free expression, press freedom, and the safety of minority groups vulnerable to online abuse. Read more about the importance of anonymity here.
Demanding an independent privacy regulator, not a Government lapdog
In May, after the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) posted of a vacancy for its top job that read like an ad for a corporate lobbyist, ORG responded by calling for an independent privacy regulator unafraid of holding the Government and Big Tech to account. Our campaign resulted in a cross-party group of MPs sending a letter to the Secretary of State for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) warning of Government improperly influencing the ICO.
Legal victories on mass surveillance and migrants’ data rights
In late May, the European Court of Human Rights ruled on a case brought by ORG and other organisations in 2013 declaring that the UK Government’s mass surveillance programme violated our fundamental rights. Only days later, after ORG and the3million’s three year legal battle against the Home Office, the UK court of Appeal found the UK “immigration exemption” – which removes key data protection rights from UK residents including British citizens – to be unlawful, excessive, and wrong.
Championing digital rights in Scotland