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Last Updated: Friday, 9 September 2005, 09:25 GMT 10:25 UK
UK digital rights group sets up
Image of people using technology
Org says it is "vital" that digital rights are protected
A UK-based organisation to preserve digital rights and freedoms has been set up thanks to pledges of money by those passionate about such rights.

It says it wants to highlight European and UK legislation which could threaten the rights of digital citizens.

Still at early stages, the Open Rights Group (Org) will serve as a hub for other cyber-rights groups campaigning on similar digital rights issues.

Org emulates US's Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) digital rights group.

The EFF has campaigned against entertainment industry attempts to limit what people can do with digital media.

It has also provided guidelines and legal advice to bloggers at work, and has helped shape e-voting policies.

Org aims to nurture a grassroots community of volunteers to campaign on digital rights issues, such as ID card proposals, biometric passports, data protection, "fair use" rights over digital content, and vehicle tracking technologies.

In tandem

Digital rights groups already campaigning on certain issues in the UK and Europe include the Campaign for Digital Rights, Foundation for Information Policy Research, No2ID, Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure and Privacy International.

Whether people are online or not, it is vital that we protect their digital rights
Suw Charman, Org
Suw Charman, one of the co-founders of Org, told the BBC News website that it would not seek to take any campaigns away form these groups.

"Our aim is to work alongside these people, helping them to connect with each other and providing them with whatever support we can," she said.

Although the group has not formally launched, it is already planning its first campaign.

"We will initially be concentrating our efforts on Home Secretary Charles Clarke's proposed draft EU framework on data retention for ISPs and telecommunications companies," said Ms Charman.

"We believe that the proposal is not only both unnecessary and unworkable, but that it may also contravene the European Convention on Human Rights."

Exclusionary or inclusive?

Prominent names who write, commentate and campaign within the net's sphere have joined the steering committee for Org, including net activist Danny O'Brien and Boing Boing contributor and activist Cory Doctorow.

Image of EFF and Boing Boing's Cory Doctorow
Net activist Cory Doctorow is involved in the group
Mr Doctorow is also involved with the EFF.

A post on Org's temporary online home says: "It is essential in this time of international tension and uncertainty that we vigorously defend our digital civil liberties, ensuring that the our hard-won freedoms are not taken away simply because they've moved to the digital world."

When the idea was first floated, it attracted some criticism from other rights groups, such as Citizens Online.

It questioned the list of issues that the group wanted to tackle, highlighting the possible danger that it would only concentrate on "middle class" debates.

Other issues, such as the number of website that are inaccessible to disabled people, and the prevailing digital divide were perhaps of more immediate concern to ordinary people, a spokesperson from Citizens Online had suggested.

About a third of Britons have never used the net, for instance.

"Digital rights are important for everyone, regardless of age, background or location," said Ms Charman.

"We all have mobile phones, medical records and the right to vote anonymously, so we are all affected by the way that new technology is being used by government and big business.

"Whether people are online or not, it is vital that we protect their digital rights."

The plan to create such a UK-based group was hatched at the recent OpenTech 2005 conference in July.

Mr O'Brien subsequently created a pledge on the Pledgebank website which attracted funding for the group.


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