• Facial Recognition Technology - The Big Picture

    Online event

    Recently, activists and civil rights organisations such as Liberty, Open Rights Group and WebRoots have gathered and published evidence of the ways in which Automated Facial Recognition technologies risk infringing human rights.

    Following on from their efforts, we have started to see a real push back against the trial and use of these technologies by law enforcement in public spaces. For example, its use by the police in Wales has been ruled unlawful and deemed to be a violation of human rights by the Court of Appeal of England and Wales in August 2020; Police Scotland has given up on its plans to deploy Facial Recognition technologies because of how they discriminate based on gender and race; US cities like Boston, San Francisco, or Portland have banned these technologies on the same basis. These debates have become even more salient in the context of the recent pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong, and the Black Lives Matter campaign for racial justice in the US.

    It is therefore more important than ever to continue and broaden a societal conversation on the implications of using Automated Facial Recognition technologies, the ways in which these technologies are deployed and regulated in different contexts, the risks that they pose, and how they can reinforce existing inequalities.

    Join us online for a discussion which will tackle these questions from a historical, legal, techno-social, and human rights perspective.

    Benedetta Catanzariti is a PhD candidate in Science, Technology and Innovation Studies at the University of Edinburgh, researching on the relationship between surveillance, AI and society. Her academic background is in philosophy and she is particularly interested in the way technology shapes our identity and contributes to reinforce or, alternatively, dismantle social inequalities. She is currently looking at the design of the classification techniques underpinning the development and use of automated facial and affect recognition systems.


    Areeq Chowdhury is the founder and director of WebRoots Democracy, a think tank advocating for progressive and inclusive technology policy. Areeq Chowdry has worked at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office; the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport; London City Hall; the UK Parliament; KPMG; and Future Advocacy. He has also provided commentary on technology policy issues for a range of media outlets including Al Jazeera, the BBC, and Sky News.


    Lachlan D. Urquhart is a Lecturer in Technology Law at the University of Edinburgh. He is also a core member of the Centre for Data, Culture and Society and Director of the eLL.M in Information Technology Law. Lachlan is currently working on a major research project entitled ‘Emotional AI in Cities: Cross Cultural Lessons from UK and Japan on Designing for An Ethical Life’ which examines the socio-technical, governance and cultural dimensions of affect sensing technologies in urban life. His work sits at the intersection of computer science, information technology law, and computer ethics, and focuses on the technical, sociological, and interactional implications of living with interactive computing.


  • Surveillance and the Right to Dignity

    Online event

    All human beings have a right to dignity, as described in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Data extraction, stalking, monitoring, and profiling by tech companies leads to breaches of privacy but also a breach of dignity. Dignity is vital to our sense of self-worth on an individual level and on a societal level, societies must value dignity if they are to prosper.

    Join us online for a panel discussion asking; is it acceptable that tech companies refer to ‘human downgrading’, ‘learned helplessness’ and ‘hijacking minds’? Justin Rosenstein, who worked at Google and Facebook, famously said that everyone is distracted, all of the time. If our attention and time are being wasted on mindless activities, then surely that is a violation of the right to dignity? The adtech industry uses micro-targeting, behavioural targeting, cookies and geolocation data to profile and manipulate people. How can we protect our dignity by stopping the commodification of sensitive personal information?

    - Howard Ayo is a doctoral researcher at the University of Ulster, UK. His research examines the national action plan on business and human rights. He has long been involved in practical human rights and development policy work.

    - An Irish citizen based in London, Maria Farrell has worked in tech policy for twenty years, including at The World Bank, ICANN, the International Chamber of Commerce, Paris, the Confederation of British Industry and The Law Society of England and Wales. Her current focus is on how to imagine and build technological and political futures most of us actively choose to live in.

    - Hailing from the School of Social and Political Science at the University of Edinburgh, Dr Clare Llewellyn is interested in the development and definition of cross-disciplinary methodological and ethical techniques and standards in the GovTech domain. She has developed novel data analysis techniques using natural language processing, supervised and unsupervised machine learning and statistical analysis.

    RSVP to access the registration link.

  • Democracy In Peril

    Online event

    A free press, freedom of thought and well informed citizens free to make up our own minds without fear or covert manipulation, are some of the crucial cornerstones to a healthy flourishing of democracy. However, these cornerstones have become increasingly vulnerable to attack. From advances in AI, surveillance and psychological manipulation through data mining of social media and other data by government, corporate and global ‘actors’ shrouded in secrecy, we face ever greater incursions into our freedom to think for ourselves, and access accurate quality information not swamped by a tsunami of fake news.

    Talks and discussions will explore 2 areas that challenge democracy in the current climate.


    Adam Ramsay, co-editor of OpenDemocracy UK, discusses his investigations into the dark world of the offshore far right and their war on democracy. His investigative journalism has covered areas such as Dark Money, Cambridge Analytica Scandal, European Super PACs, Oligarchs, Surveillance Capitalism, Fake News and Corrosion of British Democracy.

    How far do the tentacles of corrupt offshore money reach? What implications do they have in our accurate and balanced understanding of the world around us? How does that impact on our democracy and freedom?


    Brendan Quinn is a technology specialist and senior consultant with clients such as the BBC, Equens, Verisure, and the Department for Education. And was one of the principal architects of the Yahoo! Publishing Platform.

    What impact is the coronavirus having on democracy in the UK and across the globe? What lasting legacy will both the dissemination and control of fake news, surveillance and emergency laws brought in to tackle this pandemic have on our digital and physical rights?

    Jibunnessa Abdullah (Lead Organiser of ORG Glasgow)

    If you are interested in data rights, democracy, human rights, politics and journalism, then please join ORG Glasgow for thought provoking talks and scintillating conversations.

  • Crime and Policing in the Age of Mass Surveillance

    ** In light of the coronavirus public health concern, we are exploring options to host this event online. You can join us by clicking on https://zoom.us/j/170504807 **

    In a landmark victory for digital privacy, last month Police Scotland shelved plans to deploy facial recognition technology. The Justice Sub-Committee on Policing concluded the technology was “not fit” for use because of how it discriminates based on gender and race. However, Scotland stands alone in the UK in taking this decision. Innocent people simply going about their day are however still being scanned elsewhere up and down the country and having their facial biometric data stored and often misidentified. Other data extraction and surveillance techniques are also used throughout the UK that greatly impact on our rights to privacy and can thus impact on our freedom of movement, communication and thought.


    Silkie Carlo (Director of Big Brother Watch) will be talking on facial recognition technology use in public spaces in the UK, especially the Met Police in London, and what that means for people’s liberty. She will also discuss some of the work that Big Brother Watch does in investigating, testing and campaigning against this form of intrusion.

    Matthew Rice (Scotland Director of Open Rights Group) will discuss this new decision taken by Police Scotland and also ORG’s role in holding back Police Scotland’s use of mass surveillance tools.

    Millie Graham Wood (Solicitor at Privacy International) will discuss police use of IMSI catchers to intercept mobile communication.

    Jibunnessa Abdullah (Lead Organiser of ORG Glasgow)

    Please join us for an interesting and thought provoking evening of talks that straddle areas of technology, law, ethics and activism.

  • Is digital surveillance creating a culture of self-censorship?

    In 2013, Edward Snowden revealed the scale of surveillance by corporate and government bodies on the data we generate online every time we simply browse, post on social media, buy things, talk to family and friends, publish and research. What that might say about our patterns of behaviour, personality, beliefs and ideas are of great interest to many who might seek to make predictions and influence. How does this level of actual or perceived digital surveillance affect behaviour? Have writers now become less willing to research and discuss certain topics?

    In 2018, Scottish PEN in collaboration with the University of Strathclyde, published a report, Scottish Chilling: Impact of Government and Corporate Surveillance on Writers, which sought to address this question. Based on a survey of 118 writers in Scotland, this ground-breaking study looked at the question of self-censorship among writers and what limitations that placed on their work. This not only affects their own freedom of enquiry and expression. But it also has huge implications for the range of topics and ideas that readers can access to better understand the world around them and fight against the growing tsunami of fake news.

    Guest speakers will be award-winning freelance journalist, Eve Livingston (Guardian, Independent, VICE and BBC) and the report authors: Nik Williams (Project Manager, Scottish PEN), David McMenemy (Lecturer in Information Science at the University of Strathclyde, and Deputy Director for Postgraduate Teaching) and Dr Lauren Smith (University of Edinburgh). Moderator for the panel discussion will be Dr Angela Daly (Senior Law Lecturer at the University of Strathclyde).

    Join us for a fascinating evening of talks and discussions that will explore how free we now are to research, explore and express ourselves in a world where more and more of what we click is being watched.

  • The Great Hack film screening & panel discussion

    Centre for Contemporary Arts

    Join us for a special election season event about disinformation and manipulation in political campaigning.

    First up, we’re got a FREE screening of the Netflix documentary The Great Hack, which uncovers the dark world of data exploitation through the journeys of players from the explosive Cambridge Analytica/Facebook data scandal.

    After the film, stick around for a panel discussion and workshop to learn how to submit a subject access request (SAR) to UK political parties so you can find out exactly what personal data they are holding on you.

    To complete a (SAR), you’ll need to bring a laptop or phone and a photo ID that proves your identity and lists your current voting address. A driving licence will suffice if the address is your current voting address. If the address is outdated, you'll need to add a second document with your current voting address. This could be a utility bill, council tax bill or a bank statement from the last 3 months.
    We’ll supply refreshments!


    We need to end practices like ‘dark ads’, microtargeting, psychological profiling and disinformation – many of which are using our personal data to deliver their maximum effect.

    Register your free ticket here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/org-glasgow-the-great-hack-free-screening-tickets-79374434069

  • Two talks: Confronting the AdTech Leviathan & Digital Rights Post-Brexit

    Join the Open Rights Group Campaigns Manager, Mike Morel, in a two part presentation & discussion.

    Advertising technology (AdTech) systems broadcast the public’s personal data to thousands of companies who use it to track users across the internet and build sophisticated profiles. After being declared unlawful under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a reckoning is coming. Learn how the shadowy AdTech ecosystem works and how its abuses are being exposed and challenged.

    Leaving the EU will have profound effects on how the UK experiences the digital world. Some rules governing online activity will no longer apply while others will remain intact. This talk will take a closer look at the digital facts we’ll face post-Brexit. Learn how new international agreements could affect digital privacy, mass surveillance and speech online and what we need to do to safeguard our rights in uncharted territory. We’ll also discuss ways to quiz candidates about digital rights in the event of a general election.

    Membership not required and the event is free to attend. No prior knowledge or involvement in previous ORG campaigns necessary to attend.

    Venue - Hays, Glasgow City Centre
    Please access Hays from the Blythswood Street entrance. Reception will be on the first floor, with the talk delivered in the boardroom.

  • ORGCon 19 Scotland

    School of Informatics, The University of Edinburgh

    Join us for a day of discussions, debates and action. Hear some of the world’s leading experts on data and democracy, free expression and digital privacy.

    ORGCon is hosted by the Open Rights Group. We challenge the government’s mass surveillance programme, protect free expression online, and push for better digital privacy protections.

    In collaboration with SICSA Cyber Nexus (Scottish Informatics and Computer Science Alliance) programme, ORGCon Scotland will hear from the following speakers:

    Jim Killock, the Executive Director of the Open Rights Group
    Patrick Harvie MSP, Co-leader of the Scottish Green Party.
    Aggelos Kaiyyas, University of Edinburgh
    Lesley Allen, Strategic Lead Digital Identity Scotland
    Robert Clubb, Improvement Service)
    Heather Burns, COADEC fellow, data privacy expert
    Basil Manoussas, Napier University forensics expert
    Tatora Mukushi, Scottish Human Rights Commission
    Clare Connelly, Faculty of Advocates
    Liz Aston, Scottish Institute for Policing Research
    Daniel Winterstein, CEO of Good Loop
    Michael Veale, Lecturer in Digital Rights and Regulation at University College London
    Maria Wolters, Senior Reader in Design Informatics, University of Edinburgh
    Catherline Lai, Senior Researcher, Institute for Language and Computation, University of Edinburgh
    Walid Magdy, Lecturer, School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh.
    Pascal Crowe, Data and Democracy Project Officer at ORG
    Kami Vaneia, Lecturer in Cybersecurty and Privacy, University of Edinburgh's School of Informatics

    View the full agenda here:

    With a mixture of thought provoking panels and activity-based sessions you are guaranteed to come away with new skills and new perspectives.

    Check out this video from ORGCon held in London in July this year to get an idea of what to expect:

    Tickets are free and available here:

    See you there!

    School of Informatics, The University of Edinburgh
    10 Crichton Street
    EH8 9AB

  • Cambridge Analytica and Dark Money - Adam Ramsay, Editor of OpenDemocracy

    Join Adam Ramsay, Editor of OpenDemocracy UK, as he discusses Cambridge Analytica, Dark Money and European Super PACs: Investigating the Oligarchs' War on Democracy.

    This event should be of particular interest to those involved in IT, journalism, politics and the legal profession. Open to anyone with an interest and free to attend.

    Please remember to update your RSVP so that we can allocate sufficient seats.

    You can enter the building from Blythswood Street. We will be in the boardroom.

  • Biometrics in Scotland: How did we get here and what does the future hold?

    This meet-up will discuss the role biometrics play in Scotland in justice, community safety, and potentially where it will lead.

    The Scottish Government's Programme for Government included an announcement on a Biometric Data Bill that "will deliver enhanced oversight of biometric data and techniques used for the purposes of justice and community safety."

    James Fraser is Research Professor in Forensic Science at the University of Strathclyde and a member of the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission. He has 40 years experience as an expert witness, case reviewer, senior police manager, independent consultant, policy adviser and researcher. James has advised public agencies on forensic, scientific and investigative matters, including police organisations in the UK and abroad, the Home Office, the Scottish Parliament and the UK Parliament.

    James has published extensively including The Handbook of Forensic Science (with Robin Williams) and Forensic Science – a very short introduction. He is currently working on Murder under the Microscope (Atlantic Books).

    James will be answering the questions:

    What role do biometrics play in justice and community safety? How do you see that changing?
    What should the public understand about biometrics that you wish they knew?

    Laura Martin, PhD student at Univesity of Strathclyde will report on surveillance in the workplace via biometrics, reflecting whether the Scottish Government's proposals go far enough for safeguarding individual's rights. Laura will be tackling the questions:

    Where will biometrics go in the future?
    Are the Scottish Government proposals fit for future challenges?

    The two presentations will be followed by a discussion with the audience chaired by Scotland Director Matthew Rice.

    All are welcome!

    You don't need to be an expert in computer science (or forensic science!) to contribute to this event. You just need to care about the effect technology has on your rights.