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Sam Smith's picture

In the PI office, we have daily debates about which platforms to use for our organizational operations. As a privacy charity, we are naturally concerned about the integrity of our own information services and resources, but we frequently receive queries about the best technologies to use from a variety of other organizations, some with very complex threat models.

The sad fact is that we are all poorly served by the range of services currently available. We worry that there is a significant lack of outsourced/cloud-mediated services that include effective content privacy protections. If you know of resources that are out there or under development, please get in touch or leave a comment below.

Blog
Carly Nyst's picture

Imagine a secret government list of suspicions and allegations, fuelled by unsubstantiated rumours provided by anonymous citizens with undisclosed intentions. The information contained in the list would not be measured against any legal burden of proof or supported by any credible evidence, but would – simply by its existence – become “fact”. Imagine, then, if the government could rely upon such “facts” to identify and implicate individuals for illegal behaviour. Such a system would be reminiscent of McCarthyistic tactics to ferret out suspected communists and traitors in 1950s America.

Blog
Sam Smith's picture

By now, UK internet users are probably familiar with major sites asking them to consent to the use of website cookies. This is prompted by the 'cookie law' (aka "Directive 2002/58 on Privacy and Electronic Communications", otherwise known as the E-Privacy Directive), which is proving a privacy trainwreck. Theoretically, the Directive was a good idea - a method of preventing companies secretly following a user from site to site across the web. However, ill-executed law can be worse than no law at all, and the UK's regulator, the Information Commissioner's Office has made a hash of its implementation.

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Georgia Ardizzone's picture

Drones are back in the headlines, with the news that the Ministry of Defence plans to develop unmanned underwater vehicles for use in submarine warfare. Human rights groups have already raised concerns over the UK’s use of airborne military drones, which have played a key role in UK operations in Afghanistan since 2008. But drone technology is not limited to military uses: the deployment of ‘civilian’ drones, designed for use in home airspace, may be an emerging trend in UK policing.

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Naomi Colvin's picture

Hacking Team is a supplier of “lawful intercept” technology based in Milan. A regular attendee of surveillance industry conferences around the world, last year one of the company’s founding partners told the Guardian that Hacking Team had sold surveillance software to 30 countries across five continents. 

Hacking Team’s marketing material promises that it can “defeat encryption” and “attack and control target PCs from a remote location” in a way that “cannot be detected”. The company has been very clear in the way it describes its ‘Da Vinci’ Remote Control System

It is spyware. It is a Trojan horse. It is a bug. It is a monitoring tool.” 

Blog
Eric King's picture

Earlier this year, Privacy International began research into the corporate social responsibility policies of companies that sell communications surveillance technology. Given that this technology is known to facilitate human rights abuses in repressive regimes around the world, surveillance tech companies that claims corporate responsibility might be expected to address such concerns in their CSR policy documents.

Of the 246 companies known to partake in the communications surveillance industry, only 62 had publicly available CSR policies. Of these, only four companies had policies that placed specific constraints on doing business with regimes that might use their technology to commit human rights abuses.

Blog
Eric King's picture

As part of Privacy International's investigation into the mass surveillance industry we have examined hundreds of legal documents, brochures and, most recently, patents. Patents are a form of intellectual property; patent-holders publicly disclose their inventions in exchange for the exclusive rights to use and commercialise them for a limited period of time. Patent registries therefore provide a window into the otherwise murky world of the mass surveillance industry.

Blog
Dr Gus Hosein's picture

Governments have no automatic right of access to our communications. This will sound highly controversial to some, even downright radical. But the demands of national security and crime prevention do not, in fact, immediately trump every other right and responsibility in the complex relationship between citizen and state. 

The recent Skype argument is a great example. Skype has always prided itself on being a secure method of communication. Businesses, government agencies, human rights organisations and other groups that value security therefore adopted Skype wholesale - but now there are questions about how Skype allows access to its users' communications.

Some argue that, on a moral basis, Skype has to build its technology in such a way that permits government access. Others wrongly believe that they have a legal obligation to do so. But in whose interests does Skype develop its product?  

Blog
Carly Nyst's picture

Last week’s revelation that Bahraini human rights activists have been targeted by advanced surveillance technology made by British company Gamma is yet another nail in the coffin of privacy and freedom of expression in Bahrain.

Over the past ten years, Bahraini citizens, among the most internet-connected in the Middle East, have been subjected to increasingly oppressive controls on and intrusions into their online and offline lives. The internet is heavily patrolled, and free speech curtailed, by laws which prohibit the publication of material that is offensive to Islam or the king, or that are perceived as undermining state security or the monarchy. Content that is politically sensitive is censored, websites run by national and international non-governmental organisations are blocked, and bloggers, activists and movements are silenced. Moreover, a culture of self-censorship is pervading Bahrain as the government’s capacity for surveillance expands.

Blog
Eric King's picture

The recent acquisition of Skype by Microsoft, coupled with a series of infrastructural changes, has resulted in a flurry of responsesconcerns and analysis of exactly what kind of assistance Skype can provide to law enforcement agencies. Under this heightened scrutiny, Skype released a statement on their blog on 26th July, purporting to re-affirm their commitment to the privacy of their users.

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