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Re. OpenCon statement – update 3.

Tl,dr: OpenCon have partially responded to my GDPR request. They still refuse to answer questions regarding the timing and motivations for their public statement, which continues to cause damage today.

On January 17, OpenCon made a preliminary response to my GDPR request. The full text of this response is provided below, as I continue to try and inject transparency into this process as a form of public accountability.

You can find recent updates regarding this incident here (Post 1) and here (Post 2), which I strongly recommend reading in advance, as they contain a lot of critical context.

In their latest response to my GDPR request, OpenCon have provided me several things, here summarised:

  1. Details of the applications I sent them to attend their events several years ago, including their review process. The files can be found here (and no, I do not understand why this format was chosen):

    Download (PDF, 90KB)


    and here:
    .
    While these are not particularly informative, I am sharing them so that others can see what OpenCon has apprently spent the last 7 weeks on gathering and processing.
  2. That they are still explicitly refusing to answer my reasonable questions that I first asked them 10 weeks ago now (see below).
  3. Notice that they were still working on providing me information about their investigation, now 7 weeks after my formal legal request (see below).

While I am grateful to receive details of my previous applications, this is clearly not the information that I was after and irrelevant to the case at hand. I remain at a loss as to why this information took 7 weeks after making a legal request to gather.

Due to these ongoing delays and seemingly diversionary tactics to avoid telling me the truth about this incident, I have now followed recommended legal guidelines and filed a complaint to the UK ICO. I remain at a loss why this is proving so difficult.

The original questions I asked, and am still yet to receive answers to, are:

  1. Why did you make the public announcement now? This is noting that you formally banned me just over a year ago now (November 2018), based on incidents 1-2 years before that, as far as I am presently aware.
  2. What was your intention in making the public announcement?
  3. Did you take prior advice on the consequences and material risk of public incitement in making the statement?
  4. Did you plan to do anything about the libelous claims members of the OpenCon community have made as a direct consequence of your statement and its ambiguity? I believe that many of the claims would also be in violation of your Code of Conduct (CoC). Many of the more aggressive statements have been directed not just to myself, but also members of the wider community.

The fact that OpenCon are continuously evading and unwilling to answer any of these simple questions (see below) raises huge concerns about their internal process and motivations. I have received dozens of speculative ideas from others on why this was, including suggestions of accidental incompetence all the way through to attempted sabotage of the Open Science MOOC through a wilful form of character assassination. However, I do not care for such speculation, and would rather continue to call for honesty and transparency on these matters. Accordingly, I have made everything I am aware of regarding this incident now a matter of public record, so that people can judge for themselves rather than relying on rumours, hostile social media accounts, or ambiguous statements.

Either way, OpenCon’s inability to provide any answers to these simple questions has substantial legal ramifications, due to the incredible negative impact that they had (post 1). Theydid not follow due process, and after several months seem completely unwilling to hold themselves accountable for their behaviours, their ongoing mistakes, and the massive damages they have caused to me, my work, and the wider community (see below).

Additional questions to those above have been raised throughout this incident that also still remain unanswered by OpenCon, and include:

  • Why have they not responded to any of the public questions about this incident, especially those on Twitter? (post 1)
  • Why was I given no prior notification that they would make a public statement, one that I did not consent to, about the ban? (post 1)
  • Why have selected members of the CoC Committee been excluded from the correspondences with me? (post 2)
  • Why did they make a public statement that violates their own CoC, noting that this element was removed from it a year before? (post 1)

I have no wish to take further legal action to get answers to these important questions. However, the damage that OpenCon has caused to me both professionally and personally has been substantial and they seem completely uninterested in providing any real answers or transparency into what is clearly a deeply flawed process. At the present, I am still reachable by email for anyone who wishes to discuss these matters with me further.


Dear all,

Please see my inline comments to your message in bold.

Preliminary Response to Data Access Request dated 27 November 2019

This email contains our initial response to your message of November 27 requesting all personal data on you held by OpenCon subject to GDPR.

Article 15 of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (Regulation (EU) 2016/679) (GDPR) grants data subjects the right to:

  • Obtain confirmation that an organisation processes their personal data.
  • Receive certain information about the processing.
  • Receive a copy of the personal data we process.

In addition to the access right, the GDPR also grants data subjects the right to:

  • Request correction of inaccuracies of their personal data.
  • Restrict or object to certain types of data processing.
  • Make a complaint with the local data protection authority.

As a participant in OpenCon for several years, you have provided us with information over time that qualifies as personal data. After conducting a diligent search for records relating to your access request, we have identified personal data that we process relating to you.

This response contains those files that are most central to the data we process about you. In the coming weeks, this response will be supplemented with additional information as we work diligently to prepare it for release to you. Some data takes longer to consider because other individuals’ data may be identified within it, and we need to assess whether it is reasonable to release that data to you.

Attached to this message you will find two files. The first is an overview that describes the categories of personal data that we hold concerning you that we are providing in this response. The second contains copies of that personal data.

Thank you for providing this information. While I appreciate that you seem to be making an effort here, this is totally and unquestionably unacceptable. It has now been almost 2 months since I made the legal request, and almost 4 weeks past the recommended GDPR guidelines, as I have indicated to you now on multiple occasions. The data that you have provided to me is a record of my past OpenCon applications, with additional details including the reviews that I helped perform for you, and details of the satellite events I organised for you – both as volunteers. While I appreciate you sending me this information, it is not really relevant in any way to the ongoing incident.

As I stated in my previous message to you, if you have performed a professional investigation, and have carefully documented a series of ‘inappropriate behaviours’, then why is this information not readily available? If it is not readily available and well-documented, then how are your behaviours regarding me substantiated? You have not yet answered either of these questions. Providing me with the partial data you have here comes across like another stall tactic (see my previous email to you), because appropriate information to satisfy my reasonable requests simply does not exist. I have been patiently waiting now for more than 2 months for you to prove me otherwise.

We process the data described in these attachments for the purpose of fulfilling OpenCon’s legitimate interest of promoting and enabling the open sharing of research output and educational materials. This is referred to as our ‘mission’ and our doing so is in the public interest. We store the data attached for as long as necessary to fulfill the purposes for which we collected it, as required to satisfy any legal, accounting, or reporting obligations, or as necessary to resolve disputes. We do not use the personal data attached for solely automated decision-making/profiling.

I note that you have asked for all information regarding our investigation(s) of you and allegations against you. As we have already discussed in previous correspondence, whilst you have a right to request the data that we process relating to you, we are unable to provide a copy of the personal data you requested where disclosure would violate the rights and freedoms of third parties. We have to undertake a balancing test carefully weighing your rights and interests against those of third parties. This is currently ongoing. Where possible, we will redact documents to the extent necessary and provide you with redacted copies.

As I noted in my formal request, redaction of names and providing a sufficient level of anonymity such that it does not compromise the process is obviously fine. As above, this information should have been readily available had you conducted a professional investigation, and redaction of names and other relevant context should not take this amount of time.

The information we release to you in this and subsequent messages will not contain:

● Files or messages that are legally privileged; or

  • Information which could not be released to you without disclosing information about another individual who can be identified from that information, and who has not given their consent to its release and it would not be reasonable to release it without their consent.

Did you also get the consent from all individuals who reported me, and others directly involved, to post the public statement? Please note the irony in that you disclosed your public statement without prior permission from me, violating your own privacy policy and code of conduct, which I have indicated to you previously and without response.

In short, we have a duty to act in a way that protects the rights of others. Specifically, this precludes our provision of any materials containing confidential information provided by those making a code of conduct report, those supplying information/evidence related to a code of conduct investigation, and our files and communications that contain this confidential information.

As above, I acknowledged this in my original demand notice, and have no interest in or intention of violating the privacy rights of others, despite the fact that this goes against due process. However, you should still be fully aware that your extrajudicial protocols do continue to violate due process, as I have also indicated to you before but you seem unwilling to engage with the concept of.

Just a quick reminder of the additional laws that OpenCon have seemingly violated and facilitated the breach of, with appropriate public documentation to illustrate this, as well as the direct personal and professional impacts of your actions:

  • The Human Rights Act, Article 8
  • Facilitation of Defamation and Libel and no action to correct libellous comments (see UK defamation Act 2013)
  • Possible ‘Libel by innuendo’
  • Character assassination as a form of defamation
  • Facilitation of breaches of cyberbullying law including: Malicious Communications (Act 1988), Harassment (Act 1997), Communications (Act 2003), and Defamation (Act 2013)

Regarding your questions about OpenCon’s code of conduct process, as we have explained in previous correspondence, the Code of Conduct Committee’s action is based on multiple accounts of inappropriate behavior over time and reflects the seriousness with which the committee views cases of sexual harassment. You have personally confirmed this pattern of inappropriate behavior of a sexual nature. The Code of Conduct Committee’s actions are determined by its responsibility for the safety of the community and the steps necessary for upholding this responsibility as determined by the information available to the committee in each specific case.

To reiterate again what I have said before, you gave me no choice but to ‘confirm’ and accept your ban. There is no reasonable evidence ‘confirming’ any inappropriate such pattern of behaviour. We live in a society where innocence is presumed until reasonable evidence demonstrates otherwise, and you have no right to damage generations of heroic work to instil these principles in our culture. At the time you privately announced the ban, one year prior to the public statement, your refusal to divulge any information or evidence to me regarding my accusations left me with no room to respond at all. I was unaware of what I had apparently done, to whom, who had accused me or when. I communicated this to you at the time, you explicitly refused my requests for information, and thus I still remain unaware of these things.

Your quasi-legal process is the definition of fait accompli. I was deemed guilty by accusation, denied fair access to legal counsel, and deprived of seeing any evidence, anonymously or otherwise. It is impossible to defend yourself against accusations when you don’t know what they are. Your actions as part of your investigation explicitly avoided due process while simultaneously violating my fundamental human rights: see Articles 10 through 12 of the UN Declaration on Human Rights. At the beginning of this process, you should have indicated to me that this was something that a lawyer should have been present for, as your negative behaviours have had profound and lasting legal and personal consequences.

As far as I am aware, your allegations against me involve one isolated incident of unwanted physical approaching and contact while ‘dancing’ and inebriated and in public. This is the only incident I can confirm, and was resolved shortly after it happened by myself and the other person involved. To this day, I remain grateful to that individual for helping to correct my behaviour in a mature and responsible way. Your delayed intervention came two years after this resolution.

Besides this one confirmed violation of the Code of Conduct more than 3 years ago now, I still have virtually no idea what the ban and your subsequent public statement one year later was based on. I was given no warnings about what I had done, no ‘second chances’, no chance to apologise or make amends, no prior notification of your public statement, and absolutely no chance to learn from whatever it was I had apparently done or atone for my actions.

I was not sexually aggressive to anyone, or in a repeated manner, nor did I rape them, or anything that would constitute serious or violent sexual misconduct. Yet, you have directly allowed members of the OpenCon community to attach such labels to me as a result of your statement. By labelling my behaviours in the same way as more serious and criminal allegations, you do an incredible disservice to those of us who have suffered severe sexual harassment in our lives. Such broad definitions render them almost meaningless and can desensitise others to victims who have suffered real and lasting harm, invalidating lived and often traumatic experiences.

The OpenCon Code of Conduct Committee takes this responsibility to the community and the privacy/confidentiality of those making complaints very seriously, and we carefully consider reports and take action according to the process outlined in the code of conduct. Accordingly, the committee’s deliberations—including what information it receives, by whom, and when—are confidential to protect those providing information to the Committee and ensure the integrity of the investigation process. There is no time limit on when reports can be submitted, and information provided to the Code of Conduct Committee in any report is sensitive by nature. In a case of this nature, it would be inappropriate for us to share this information publicly. Again, all of the information that we can share about this specific case is in our public statement. The OpenCon Code of Conduct Committee reviews all reports made to them concerning specific instances of inappropriate behavior within the OpenCon community. Information on the code of conduct process, what it covers, and how to submit reports can be found here.

Thank you for sharing, although you had explained this to me before already. What is clear from this statement is that you has absolutely no intention of explaining your motivations behind the statement, that you do not care about the impact your statement has had on my personal and professional lives as well as the wider community, and that you are not taking any responsibility for any of the behaviours on social media from the OpenCon community and subsequent damages as a result of your actions. Please correct me if this is a mistake.

Overall, this indicates to me that OpenCon has absolutely no idea of how to handle Code of Conduct processes ethically or responsibly, cares more about disproportionately punitive reactions to minor incidents than creating a supporting community, and has absolutely zero understanding of the devastating real world and legal ramifications of its actions. Complacency to this does not seem particularly wise, especially regarding legitimate lawful processes and my rights as a UK citizen, and the fact that OpenCon is now directly culpable for a number of legal offenses. As I have indicated to you before on numerous occasions, I continue to hope that you will act to resolve this with civility, so that I do not have to take further legal action.

As you advised me recently to reflect on my behaviours, something which I have been doing intensely for years before your suggestion as part of my personal growth process, I strongly suggest that you now reflect on your own, and how your capacity to handle this delicate situation with any level of professionalism has been severely compromised and is a matter of public record.

There are an enormous number of issues that I have raised with you about your handling of this process that you have continuously refused to acknowledge or respond to. I am heartbroken, given how deeply engaged with the community I was in the past and how you are continuing to treat me. I hope that you choose to use this experience wisely and learn from it, while considering how incredibly inappropriate it has been of you to ‘experiment’ with my life through what is clearly an inherently flawed Code of Conduct testing process.

I remain hopeful that a civil and peaceful solution exists to this drama that ultimately strengthens the ‘open community’.

I will follow up with the remaining materials responsive to your GDPR request as soon as we can process them.

Thank you.

Kind regards,

Jon

2 thoughts on “Re. OpenCon statement – update 3.

  1. Good luck. I’m horrified by this organisation, and feel badly for you.

    Pretty glad now that all my applications to attend this conference were rejected. There was no transparency in that process either. ‘Open-conned’, what a joke.

    Don’t let the buggers get you down.

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