A bunch of questions came in this morning for Open Rights Group board election candidates. I'm sure my answers will go out to the election mailing list in due course, but I'm putting them up here for general reference.
1. Do you believe that individuals have the right to collect and manage their own personal data and control who they share it with using what ever tools and technology they feel most appropriate to their needs
The short answer? Yes. The long answer is a bit more complicated. I believe that digitisation of information and personal data poses new challenges to our concepts of privacy and identity. It has significantly altered the balance of power between the state and the individual as well as corporations and the individual. Addressing this, while still harnessing the power of digital information is the problem we are faced with. This goes beyond technological tools. It involves creating the right legislative framework, encouraging corporations to innovate and create business models which do not infringe individuals' rights, as well as educating the general public on digital rights issues and enabling them to take back control of their privacy and identity.
2. do you believe an individual should be if they wish an active participant in processes which make use of their own personal data rather than simply being described as the subject in such transactions as currently defined in data protection legislation.
3. how will you ensure that the Open Rights Group continues to work for individuals rights without imposing restrictions on those rights through any form of assumption that individuals are not sophisticated enough to take care of themselves or able to learn how to.
I think ORG's ongoing move to become a more representative organisation with a much more involved membership (for instance through direct elections to the board and the creation of a Supporter Council) is key here. Having members' views represented at all levels in the organisation and in key decision-making processes will help us ensure we are not making incorrect assumptions and we focus on the right priorities in the right way. I intend to support this organisational transformation and ensure it is as effective as possible in giving our members a voice.
Of course, ORG is not there simply to represent the views of its members but to campaign for digital rights for all. This is where I believe outreach and education are hugely important. Everyone is able to learn how to safeguard their existing rights, or how to use technical measures to safeguard their privacy on the internet. Yet not a lot of people bother. As a campaigning organisation we need to reach out to the general public and raise awareness of digital rights issues as well as tools which may help individuals look after themselves.
When it comes to effecting real positive change, however, an organisation such as the Open Rights Group is far more effective at lobbying and campaigning than individuals can be. This is where - with appropriate involvement from members - we need to make use of that strength of ORG to educate policy makers and influence corporations to enable us to create a digital rights environment that is fit for purpose for all.
4. What is are the three most important things you will endeavour to achieve during your first 12 months if elected
My key passion is around building diverse, sustainable, collaborative relationships and communities. The three areas I would focus on all fall under that general heading.
I want to fully support the democratisation process that ORG is going through at the moment. To me that means enabling a fast start-up of the Supporter Council, integrating it within ORG's structures and decision-making processes. It also means enabling ORG to reach out beyond its traditional London base and creating a network of regional organisations.
I also want to look at how ORG uses volunteers, as I have had feedback from members indicating that there are perhaps more barriers to getting directly involved with ORG's work than there should be. I want to encourage people to volunteer with us, while also putting the structures in place that enable us to make use of every minute of volunteer time we can get.
Finally, as I already mentioned in my candidate statement, I want ORG to become a more diverse and inclusive organisation, allowing us to build bridges with communities who may not have digital rights as their primary interest but whose interests still overlap with ours. This will enable us to raise awareness of digital rights issues among a much wider audience and to build much broader, stronger alliances, thereby increasing our influence.
5. What do you love doing that you are brilliant at and how will that help the open rights group succeed in its mission
Perhaps it's my background as a technology manager at a multinational consumer goods company, but I have a passion for creating sustainable processes and organisations - either from a blank piece of paper or by improving existing ones. My experience as a trustee of national LGBT domestic violence charity Broken Rainbow UK has taught me that there is always something an organisation could be doing better, and it's those opportunities that I want to find help ORG realise.
I also genuinely love evangelising about digital rights, be it in writing on ORGZine and my blog, through talks at organisations like Skeptics in the Pub, or in one-to-one conversations. Technology is changing our world on a daily basis, in more than just the obvious ways, and I firmly believe that digital rights are one of the defining political issues of our time. I fully intend to continue these activities if elected to the board and to help ORG gain a wider, more diverse audience for its message in any way I can.
6. What are the top three actions that you think open rights group members should be doing to support open rights group now?
- Spread the word. Find a friend who's not into digital rights and ask them what they think Google knows about them, or how they'd cope without access to the internet once a rightsholder decides to get them disconnected on no evidence at all.
- Consider starting or joining a local group. Richard, one of my fellow candidates, has already started up ORG Sheffield. If you're in his part of the world, join him. If you're somewhere else, read Richard's HOWTO and start up a group yourself.
- Support ORG's ongoing campaigns by signing petitions, talking or writing to your MP/MEP or responding to government consultations as appropriate.