ⓘ Open Rights Group


ⓘ Open Rights Group

The Open Rights Group is a UK-based organisation that works to preserve digital rights and freedoms by campaigning on digital rights issues and by fostering a community of grassroots activists. It campaigns on numerous issues including mass surveillance, internet filtering and censorship, and intellectual property rights.


1. History

The organisation was started by Danny OBrien, Cory Doctorow, Ian Brown, Rufus Pollock, James Cronin, Stefan Magdalinski, Louise Ferguson and Suw Charman after a panel discussion at Open Tech 2005. OBrien created a pledge on PledgeBank, placed on 23 July 2005, with a deadline of 25 December 2005: "I will create a standing order of 5 pounds per month to support an organisation that will campaign for digital rights in the UK but only if 1.000 other people will too." The pledge reached 1000 people on 29 November 2005. The Open Rights Group was launched at a "sell-out" meeting in Soho, London.


2. Work

The group has made submissions to the All Party Internet Group APIG inquiry into digital rights management and the Gowers Review of Intellectual Property.

The group was honoured in the 2008 Privacy International Big Brother Awards alongside No2ID, Liberty, Genewatch UK and others, as a recognition of their efforts to keep state and corporate mass surveillance at bay.

In 2010 the group worked with 38 Degrees to oppose the introduction of the Digital Economy Act, which was passed in April 2010.


3. Goals

  • To provide a media clearinghouse, connecting journalists with experts and activists.
  • To preserve and extend traditional civil liberties in the digital world.
  • To nurture a community of campaigning volunteers, from grassroots activists to technical and legal experts.
  • To collaborate with other digital rights and related organisations.
  • To raise awareness in the media of digital rights abuses.

4. Areas of interest

The organisation, though focused on the impact of digital technology on the liberty of UK citizens, operates with an apparently wide range of interests within that category. Its interests include:

Access to knowledge

  • Creative Commons
  • Free and open source software
  • The public domain
  • Copyright
  • Crown copyright
  • Software patents
  • Digital Restrictions Management

Free speech and censorship

  • s. 127 Communications Act 2003
  • Internet filtering
  • Right to parody

Government and democracy

  • Freedom of information legislation
  • Electronic voting

Privacy, surveillance and censorship

  • Identity management
  • Police DNA Records
  • NHS patients’ medical database
  • RFID
  • Automatic Vehicle Tracking
  • Communications data retention
  • Net Neutrality


5. Structure

ORG has a paid staff, whose members include:

  • Javier Ruiz Diaz Campaigner
  • Jim Killock Executive Director

Former staff include Suw Charman-Anderson and Becky Hogge, both Executive Directors, e-voting coordinator Jason Kitcat, campaigner Peter Bradwell, grassroots campaigner Katie Sutton and administrator Katerina Maniadaki. The groups patron is Neil Gaiman. As of February 2011 they have 22.000 supporters of which 1.400 are paying contributors


6. Advisory council and board of directors

In addition to staff members and volunteers, there is an advisory panel of over thirty members, and a Board of Directors, which oversees the groups work, staff, fundraising and policy. The current board members are:

  • Owen Blacker
  • Alec Muffett
  • Azmina Dhrodia
  • Hannah Little
  • Brian Parkinson
  • John Elliott
  • James Cronin
  • Tom de Grunwald
  • Simon Phipps
  • Christi Scarborough

In January 2015, the Open Rights Group announced the formation of a Scottish Advisory Council which will be handling matters relating to Scottish digital rights and campaigns. The Advisory Council is made up of:

  • Chris Yiu
  • Alistair Davidson
  • Alex Stobbart
  • Marco Biagi MSP
  • Michael Fourman
  • Mark Leiser
  • Patrick Harvie MSP

From the existing UK Advisory Council:

  • Lilian Edwards
  • Judith Rauhofer
  • Wendy Grossman
  • Keith Mitchell

And from the Open Rights Group Board:

  • Simon Phipps
  • Owen Blacker
  • Milena Popova

One of the first projects is to raise awareness and opposition to the Scottish Identity Database.



ORGCON was the first ever conference dedicated to digital rights in the UK, marketed as "a crash course in digital rights". It was held for the first time in 2010 at City University in London and included keynote talks from Cory Doctorow, politicians and similar pressure groups including Liberty, NO2ID and Big Brother Watch. ORGCON has since been held in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2017, and 2019 where the keynote was given by Edward Snowden.