The Privacy Surgeon has published an important new resource for citizen activism that argues for more strategic and aggressive direct action by rights campaigners.
Ideas for Change is an independent project that sets out a hundred principles for effective activism. The work is a ‘tool kit’ of strategic principles and campaign tactics that – across the centuries – have changed the world for the better. It borrows heavily from military strategy.
The publication, which has been in development for nearly three years, was launched yesterday in Amsterdam under the patronage of the Institute of Information Law of the University of Amsterdam and the Amsterdam Platform for Privacy Research.
The project builds on the influential Rules for Radicals, created more than forty years ago by pioneering US rights campaigner Saul Alinsky.1 It updates and expands those principles for the modern era.
Although Alinsky’s rules articulated the basis of grassroots community activism, some of those concepts have increasingly become less relevant to present day campaigning. In the light of changing political environments, some have even become risky.
Ideas for Change emerged from the arenas of information rights and privacy, but its principles will benefit any aspect of direct action. The most successful privacy and information rights campaigns of the past forty years clearly reflect the most celebrated actions of the peace movement, consumer rights and environmental activism. The principles of strategy are immutable.
To prevent the creation of societies of total control and surveillance, citizens must take action that is effective, potent and at times combative. Such is the history of democracy and freedom.
The project started life in 2011 and since then has been enriched by input from hundreds of campaigners, academics and activists who participated in meetings in London, Geneva, Amsterdam, Brussels, Rome and Copenhagen.
An outline of this work was first discussed at the Computers, Privacy & Data Protection conference in Brussels in January 2014 and was then tested at a public meeting in Copenhagen the following month. A March meeting hosted by the University of Amsterdam launched and evaluated the first set of draft principles.
The need for direct action to protect human rights and freedoms is as pressing now as in any time in recent history. Privacy is under constant threat, while freedom of expression is assaulted daily by new forms of control and censorship.
Meanwhile, the idea of individual autonomy is becoming more theoretical. Freedom of movement, association and speech is increasingly subject to the constraints of licence and law as governments quietly build a regime of control that – in many nations – is closed and unaccountable.
To prevent the creation of societies of total control and surveillance, citizens must take action that is effective, potent and at times combative. Such is the history of democracy and freedom. Action to protect rights must be at least as influential as the tactics of fear that take those rights away.
Given the task required to challenge this dysfunction, the publication argues the case for a resurgence of more empowered activism and more potent strategies aimed at destabilization and disruption of regressive institutions and ideas.
At some levels the work could be controversial. Some of the principles are aligned with civil disobedience, law breaking and disruptive tactics. Principle 30, for example, urges administrative “denial of service” crowdsource attacks on bureaucracies.
The vast majority of the principles, however, focus on such aspects as integrity, sustainability, communications and campaign management.
The present format of Ideas for Change is the forerunner of a larger wiki site that will be launched in the first quarter of 2015.