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Defending Digital Rights in Ireland

Damien Mulley got in contact with me about the issue of having an organization to deal with issues around on-line rights and related issues. I think the key to making this work is to build on the strengths of the organizations already working in this area.

I’ve been around this track a few times, and it is extremely difficult to put something coherent and self-sustaining together. A lot of problems seem to arise around funding, direction and management.

Rather than trying to build a completely new organization from scratch, I think we should move forward by supporting the existing organizations who are doing good work in this area.

For example:

Ireland Offline has been working at getting better Internet access in Ireland. I don’t think this group has reached near its full potential but they are definitely hammering away at the issue.

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties has an e-rights and freedom of expression working group. They have spoken out in relation to the national DNA database and have organized meetings about privacy issues.

The Irish Free Software Organization has done good work on the area of software patents. One of their number has gone on to represent the Free Software Foundation in Brussels.

SAGE (System Administrators Guild of Ireland) has done a deep analysis of the upshots of legislation such as traffic data retention from a systems administration point of view.

Irish Citizens for Trustworthy E-voting fought the good fight on the electronic voting issue.

So this is the current state of play. I think a new organization has to take care to bring these strong, existing groups on board and support them, rather than attempting to supplant them.

Do you know of any other relevant organizations in Ireland? Give details in the comments and maybe we can find a way to coordinate and support these groups better.

Other relevant posts:

The Irish Liberal (whomever he may be)


Back seat driver

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  1. In relation to Justin’s comment, I contacted the ICCL many many times about the E-voting issue and they simply were not interested. Unbelievably depressing state of affairs.

    There certainly is room for a dedicated organisation, even if that is an umbrella for others. Getting access to Government is hard, and lobbying is a lot of work. However the organisations mentioned represent a large ammount of contacts.

    Funding can be complicated, once you recieve over 127 euro from any person or organisation you must register with the Standards in Public Office Commission, maintain accounts and so on. We (ICTE) have elected to maintain zero funding (our total expenses to date have been about 250 euro, on hiring a room in Buswells for a press conference)
    for this reason.

    Another hard part is obtaining Legal opinion. ICTE has many legal contacts, including Senior Council willing to argue a high court case if neccesssary, however these are busy people, who don’t want to get involved on a day to day basis, and yet hard legal opinion usually constitutes a huge part of the work that is neccessary.

    Ireland isn’t known for leading-edge tecnical court cases, so not many solicitors/lawyers will get involved for the sake of making a name, which leaves genuine personal interest or money as the only reasons for getting involved.

  2. Rightso, rang the ICCL. The E-Rights Working Group has been disbanded. They’re not really doing anything on that. They have done some research on rrivacy matters and will be publishing something on this in the future but it does appear they are no longer into anything involving the digital domain.

    I’m waiting for a phonecall back from someone on their Committee now.

  3. OK, I have been on to a friend of mine who knows the people involved and will talk to the ICCL.

    I would still say that the issue is always going to come down to funding.

  4. Hi,

    As co-chair of the ICCL, I just wanted to respond to Colm MacCartaigh’s post where he said it was “unbelievably depressing” that the ICCL weren’t interested in the E-voting issue.

    In the whole NGO/campaigning area resources are very tight and it simply makes no sense to duplicate what another organisation is doing. We are interested in E-voting (and I sent in a personal submission to the Commission on Electronic Voting) but the reality was that on this issue there was already a lobby group (Irish Citizens for Trustworthy E-Voting) who were active in the area, and were highly effectively.

    In general privacy/technical issues will never be a major priority for the ICCL but we will deal with the most significant threats. So, in the recent past, we’ve worked on telecoms data retention, ID cards, DNA database, CCTV, data protection in general and drug testing in the workplace. However, there’s definitely room for an organisation focussed solely on these issues. ICCL is not in a position to do this and the funding just isn’t there.

    I chatted with Damien on e-mail about the EFI idea and I think it makes sense that something like EFI should exist here. The ICCL would welcome this and I’ve offered to help (in a personal capacity). However, I think a lot of thought needs to be put into how its structured and its mission. In my experience for the kind of political lobbying that is involved in this area (where you are often up against the Department of Justice) to be effective, a lot of planning and research into international parallels/cases needs to be done.


  • blog August 16, 2005

    EFI You Say So

    So the question isn’t really ‘Where’s the Irish EFF?’ because we can’t have an EFF here. Rather it should be ‘What would an Irish Digital Rights organisation do?’

  • Damien Mulley's Blog August 16, 2005

    More movement on EFI / EFF Ireland

    Freestater has done a quick summary of all the IrishBlogs on the EFI idea Antoin and myself have been commenting on the post too. Antoin has posted his EFI views too on his site. While there is talk of funding,…