Privacy groups take efforts to European level

Two British organisations join continental counterparts to oppose EU and Council of Europe incursions into personal data

Ten European privacy and civil rights groups, including two from Britain, have joined forces to create an international body for lobbying at a European level. The move comes as concerns grow over erosion of data privacy by the UK's Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act and by European Union regulations.

The group, European Digital Rights (EDRi), was formed by 10 separate bodies in seven EU member states. In the UK, the Foundation for Information Policy Research (FIPR) and Privacy International will work with EDRi.

The other founding groups are Bits of Freedom, from the Netherlands; the Chaos Computer Club and Fitug, from Germany; Digital Rights, from Denmark; EFFi, from Finland; IRIS, from France; and Quintessenz and VIBE!AT, both from Austria.

The new body, based in Brussels, will focus on developments in the European Union and the Council of Europe, which includes non-European nations, and has a role in determining international criminal policy.

"The need for cooperation among European organisations is increasing as more regulation for the Internet, privacy and interception is originating from the European Union," the organisation said in a statement. "Especially since 11 September, the pace in which civil rights threatening regulation has been passed demands unified action from civil rights defenders."

The board of directors includes Maurice Wessling, founder of the Netherlands' Bits of Freedom; Andy Muller-Maguhn, a member of the board of the Chaos Computer Club and European elected director of domain-name regulation body ICANN; and Meryem Marzouki, co-founder and president of France's IRIS.

At the top of its list of concerns, EDRi placed data retention requirements, telecommunications interception, the Council of Europe cybercrime treaty, Internet rating and filtering, and restrictions on Web-based freedom of speech.

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