Ideas for Change: 100 tactics & principles for privacy campaigning (Simon Davies, Dec 2014)

UPDATE 2018-08-15: some links broke since publishing this post; I fixed them insofar possible. Current version of Davies’ Ideas for Change is here (.odt, March 2017; mirror); the file does not properly open on my system; but maybe it will on yours.

On December 3rd 2014, Simon Davies (@privacysurgeon) presented and published Ideas for Change, a comprehensive guide to privacy campaigning consisting of 100 tactics & principles — also available in one file here (.pdf; mirror). For my own referencing purposes, I hereby list all 100 tactics & principles without Davies’ annotation and explanation.


WARNING: to understand the below, read the full original by Simon Davies.


The principles


General principles of influence

  1. Focus on the ‘Big Five’ emotional triggers: hypocrisy, unfairness, deception, secrecy and betrayal. 
  2. A truly influential campaign will not only disrupt bad initiatives, it will also shift underlying beliefs. 
  3. Your size isn’t as significant as how you use it
  4. The lone maverick can have more punching power than large institutions.
  5. Power is not only what you have, but what your opponent imagines you have.
  6. Imagining the scale of a threat is rarely accurate and can be infinitely manipulated 
  7. The bigger they come, the harder they fall


Principles of conduct and integrity

  1. Be scrupulous with the truth
  2. Check your facts until it hurts.
  3. Develop a profile of quiet confidence.
  4. The strength of your argument depends on the integrity of your commentary. 
  5. Lawbreaking must rest on a solid ethical foundation.
  6. Never make a threat you aren’t prepared – or aren’t able – to follow through.
  7. Never breach your own ethos


Guiding strategic principles

  1. Robust activism is driven by goals, excited by tactics and calmly guided by strategy. 
  2. The rationale for conflict is rarely self-evident; it must be strategically and ethically tested. 
  3. Risk-assess your strategy to anticipate turbulence. 
  4. Never decide the nature of engagement with an opponent until you’ve looked at all the options.
  5. Your campaign target may not be what you first imagine – and the targeted opponent rarely is. 
  6. Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of your opponent. 
  7. Make the opponent live up to its own book of rules.
  8. A campaign won in the blink of an eye can be lost in a heartbeat 
  9. There is rarely an outright victory, only an outright shift. 
  10. Any criticism by a major opponent can be turned into a campaign endorsement. 
  11. When big organizations respond in frustration, they usually fail.
  12. Engage real people at every opportunity.
  13. Use the legal system, but with caution 
  14. Create win-win situations against your opponent. 
  15. Know your opponent and know their past.


Ideas for strategy and tactics

  1. Overload the system
  2. Think global, act local 
  3. Build an ethical framework.
  4. Information is the new gold 
  5. Don’t be afraid to make it personal.
  6. Timing is the most important and least understood factor in campaigning – and often it’s the only factor that matters 



Specific campaign ideas

  1. Ridicule and satire are potent weapons
  2. Use complaint processes whenever possible
  3. Where possible, create tangible or physical evidence of an assertion
  4. Be a stakeholder manager 
  5. Make your opponent an offer it can refuse 
  6. Re-brand the opposition’s brand
  7. Become a shareholder
  8. My enemy’s enemy is my friend
  9. Never underestimate the power of prayer
  10. Conduct Comparatively good research
  11. Strike an emperor, strike to kill 
  12. The great walk-out
  13. Slur by association
  14. Use the party political system 
  15. Follow the money.
  16. Create strange bedfellows
  17. Leverage the police 
  18. Target influential people
  19. What you don’t know can be as important as what you know
  20. Publish unanswerable technical questions 
  21. Test the system.
  22. Guilt by association 
  23. Find a victim, any victim 
  24. Trap your opponent in a double loss position 


Negatives to positives

  1. If you push a negative hard and deep enough, it will break through into its counterside
  2. Plan for a victorious defeat


Critical campaign risk factors and risk mitigation

  1. Understand the elastic limit of your supporters.
  2. Don’t risk staking everything on media coverage
  3. Keep your messaging consistent and real. 
  4. Never concede or confess anything to the opponent.
  5. Always respond to an accusation of inaccuracy with a counterclaim of secrecy.
  6. Negative campaigns should conceive a constructive alternative to avoid a perception that they are destructive. 


Media and Communications strategy

  1. If your issue can’t be expressed in a nine-word headline, you have a thesis, not a campaign. 
  2. A successful first strike in media offers opportunity to the opponent.
  3. A good media strategy ensures you’ll always be quoted, but a great media strategy hands you the headline.
  4. Use active language and don’t be afraid to speak your mind. 
  5. Images can be more powerful than words.
  6. You are what you write 
  7. Get real about the value of media coverage.
  8. Viral a conspiracy.
  9. Do all the running for media
  10. Make your website more than a soap box.


Guiding principles for campaign planning and formation

  1. Strategically brand your public identity 
  2. A good tactic is one your supporters enjoy.
  3. Become academic
  4. Always ensure your campaign lifespan is sustainable.
  5. Create partnerships to empower the campaign 


Critical risk factors for the campaign organization

  1. Avoid the hothouse 
  2. Democratising a campaign can lead to dangerous waters.
  3. Build and discreetly support a network 
  4. Maintain humility in leadership.
  5. Protect the organisation from castration 
  6. When planning a campaign, never assume continued support from any quarter unless you’ve considered all possible circumstances for its withdrawal. 
  7. No matter how highly you rate your value as a campaigner, your symbolic worth is greater to the opponent. 
  8. Take full risk and contingency measure to protect your infrastructure.

Guiding principles for managing and sustaining a campaign infrastructure

  1. “Keep the pressure on, 
  2. Do something surprising
  3. Know the difference between the need to keep control for your campaign to win and the need to let go of control for the issue to win. 
  4. Create a project-resource program.
  5. Love your team, but fear them equally.
  6. Do conventionally good things.
  7. Lighten up
  8. Know your technology
  9. Protect your info and your supporters.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *