November 13, 2013 | Richard King in Sheffield Blog  | Comments (0)

November meet-up: whither whistle-blowing?

At our November meet-up we discussed whistle-blowing in the digital age; crypto-parties near us; and responses to our open letter to MPs.

Whither whistle-blowing?

We had a round-table discussion on the history and current state of whistle blowing. The debate ranged across many of the famous historical whistle blowers and the effect their revelations had on government, society and future leaks. We noted the much greater extent to which people who blow the whistle on corporate wrongdoing are supported in law as compared to the protections for Government whistle blowers, and we wondered whether some supra-National body should exist to provide more for the latter, though we struggled to think of an appropriate body. WikiLeaks? Probably not, on current performance, but maybe with some changes...

MPs responses to our letter

Last month we sent a letter to all Sheffield MPs asking them to represent our views on mass surveillance in Parliament. Several ORGShef members have received replies so far, including from Meg Munn MP, Clive Betts MP and Paul Blomfield MP. At the meeting we noted that:

  • Some MPs were at pains to point out the necessity of the security services and the value of the work they do.
  • Some also expressed concern over the extent to which GCHQ has been targetting british citizens indiscriminately without the knowledge or consent of Parliament.
  • Some were of the view that personal information should only be sought with a court order and be based on intelligence against specific individuals.
  • Others mooted the idea of an inquiry into the oversight capabilities of the Intelligence and Security Committee.
  • The Foreign Secretary will be receiving several letters asking him to assure us that the security services are held accountable and always act within the law. (We have every confidence he will provide such assurances - but we wonder whether the law is fit for purpose!)
  • The false dichotomy between privacy and security is alive and well in the minds of some Sheffield MPs.

The group felt that our MPs were on our side, generally speaking, and there seems to be room to improve our relationship with them further.


There's a crypto-festival in London on 20 November and the ORG Manchester crypto-party (with FSFE) on 7 December. We're planning group trips to both events so get in touch on the mailing list ASAP if you want to be included.

Next meeting

Our next meeting will be crypto-related too. We'll be at Access Space running a practical session on configuring your mail client to use GPG. There will also be a key-signing party. Please RSVP if you're interested in receiving more details.

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