The inception of Data Rights finds its roots in the hasty broadranging intelligence reform of France, in 2015, following the Charlie Hebdo attacks. At that time Hugo and Lori belonged to the Exegetes, a small group of passionate volunteers bringing together privacy specialists and technologists. Together they strategically litigated against human rights flaws of laws regulating the Internet ecosystem.

Together they beavered away to meet the unprecedented breadth of legalese produced by the French Parliament with a balanced analysis of the intelligence reform from a human rights’ perspective. This work brought us an unprecedented insight into France’s activities and the fragility of many of its “safeguards”. For instance, the reform itself was supposed to put an end to the secrecy of the country’s intelligence activities by publicly regulating them. Hereby moving towards a model open to public scrutiny and accountability. Yet the reform left a legacy clause with obscure technical wording creating an enormous loophole - none of the regulations would apply to wirelessly transmitted data. Just to name a few wireless technologies, this covers data transferred via wifi, via bluetooth, all communications between a phone and a nearby antenna and all data once you switch on your 4g/5g.

The work of the Exegetes also led to a landmark ruling by the European Court of Justice. With our Quadrature et al. ruling all EU Member States must provide for the notification of individuals after they have been subject to surveillance due for instance to a closed investigation. Another improvement brought by the ruling is that Member States are now obliged to give more power to surveillance oversight bodies, whose opinons must from now on be binding onto governments. This crucial improvement to institutional checks and balances had been demanded by civil society for years and is a pillar safeguard in case a country’s government was to become authoritarian.

Yet only relying on volunteers to protect fundamental liberties when transitioning to the digital era is not enough. Volunteers burn out, move on, struggle to pay their rent. Citizens, NGOs, administrations and private businesses deserve and need their data rights to be protected by stable robust NGOs.

This is why with Gaëtan, Polina, Hugo, Lori, Romain and Jan we are setting up an organisation: Data Rights. Our scope of activity is Europe. The main organs of Data Rights are its Board of Trustees, its Board of Advisers and its Executive Team.