Digital rights group to fight data retention

The Open Rights Group wants to take on Charles Clarke over ID cards and telecoms data, and help develop fair-use rights for digital content

A digital rights organisation, the Open Rights Group (ORG), has been formed to tackle European and UK legislation which could threaten digital and civil freedoms.

ORG will serve as a hub for other cyber-rights groups campaigning on similar digital rights issues and follows in the footsteps of the US group Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

ORG has centred its focus on Home Secretary Charles Clarke’s proposed draft EU framework on data retention for ISPs and telecommunications companies which it believes could contravene the European Convention on Human Rights.

The data retention directive that the UK, Ireland and Sweden are trying to push into EU law would force all member countries to make telecommunications and ISPs save information about the use of their services by the public.

The data to be saved and retained would be traffic data which includes geographical location of the call and the identity of both parties. This means ISPs could have much greater storage requirements.

Suw Charman, one of the founders of the ORG, believes this amount of data is not only unnecessary but a breach of human rights. "The lack of meaningful checks and balances in the system means that there’s a high risk of abuse not just from the Government but potentially from the private sector too," Charman told ZDNet UK on Monday.

Data retention is not the only area of concern that ORG want to tackle. The group aims to grow a community of volunteers to campaign on ID card proposals, data protection, fair-use rights over digital content and vehicle tracking technologies such as RFID.

"The digitalisation of information opens the gateway for abuse. As soon as you start to join up government departments you have privacy issues," Charman said.

ORG hopes to serve as a coordinator for other cyber-rights groups campaigning on similar digital issues.

Click here to read the full interview with Charman.