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Eric King's picture

We have learnt a lot in the last year about the dirty games GCHQ and NSA are playing to infiltrate the networks, tools and technologies we all use to communicate. This includes forcing companies to handover their customers’ data under secret orders, and secretly tapping fibre optic cables between the same companies’ data centers.

Not content with that, we know now GCHQ are targeting companies systems administrators, exploiting the routers and switches in their networks to spy on us all, corrupting the Internet and turning it against us into something it was never meant to be: a panopticon.

Kenneth Page's picture

The European Union’s privacy and data protection laws are some of the strongest in the world. And the privacy-related activities of the last European Parliament (2009-2014) have been the most intense in its history. For half of its term it steered the highly-debated data protection law reforms, with a first plenary vote cast in the nick of time before it dissolved last April. And for the last year it dealt with the fallout of the mass surveillance revelations by Edward Snowden, which were a wake-up call for MEPs who had previously advocated watering down of privacy protections, and spurred a full scale inquiry.

Alexandrine Pirlot's picture

What do Egypt, Kenya, Turkey, Guinea, and Sweden have in common? Despite having a Constitutional right to privacy, they are adopting and enforcing policies that directly challenge this human right.

These states are also up for a Universal Periodic Review this year before the United Nations Human Rights Council. UPRs are a mechanism within the Council aimed at improving the human rights situation in all countries and address human rights violations wherever they occur.

Despite having provided a valuable space for civil society to engage in the review of human rights policies and practices, historically the right to privacy has remained largely absent within the UPR mechanism.

Eva Blum-Dumontet's picture

Earlier this month, only a few days before the new president of Egypt was sworn in, leaked documents from the Ministry of Interior revealed that the government is trying to acquire mass surveillance equipment capable of monitoring social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

While being billed as a way to monitor social media in order to “monitor security hazards in social networks” and “identify persons representing a danger on society” (sic), past and recent actions by the Egyptian government demonstrate that democracy activists, political dissidents, and journalists are likely to be targeted. Just this week, prominent democracy activist and writer Alaa Abd El Fattah was sentenced to 15 years on trumped up charges for “illegal protesting and attacking a police officer.” Fattah, who has been jailed repeatedly for his activism, was arrested outside a Cairo courtroom after being prevented from attending his own trial and sentenced in absentia.

Anna Crowe's picture

The past year has been an important one for the right to privacy. Privacy was’s word of the year in 2013. Human Rights Watch called it “The Right Whose Time Has Come (again).

However, privacy has not received enough attention in the international bodies that are meant to ensure our human rights are protected: there has been no major statement on privacy by a United Nations human rights body since 1988.

Carly Nyst's picture

In the coming year, the elections to be held in Nigeria, Indonesia, Turkey, Ethiopia, Mexico, and Tunisia will be closely watched. Not only will the international community be monitoring the elections, but domestic governments could be monitoring their own citizens at the ballot box.

When courageous citizens brave uncertain political and societal contexts to exercise one of their fundamental human rights - the right to vote - they will rely on another fundamental human right - privacy. Privacy in political processes is one of the most important guarantors of democracy, enabling people to vote by secret ballot and thus be free from intimidation, corruption and recrimination.

Yet as States expand their surveillance capacity and seek to build their power to observe and monitor ideas, communications, and movements, the right to vote and engage in political processes is increasingly imperilled.

Dr Gus Hosein's picture

Vodafone today released its first Transparency Report on the requests it receives from governments and law enforcement for user data. While other telecommunications companies have started to release domestic transparency data, this is the first time a global player is releasing a global data set, with transparency data from 29 countries where Vodafone has extensive operations and customer base.

What may be the most alarming piece of the report is that in as many as six countries, authorities have direct access to Vodafone's network, which allows governments to monitor communications directly without having to go to the company for the data of their customers. This type of unfettered access permits uncontrolled mass surveillance of Vodafone’s customers and anyone in contact with them.

Dr Richard Tynan's picture

While the initial disclosures by Edward Snowden revealed how US authorities are conducting mass surveillance on the world's communications, further reporting by the Guardian newspaper uncovered that UK intelligence services were just as involved in this global spying apparatus. Faced with the prospect of further public scrutiny and accountability, the UK Government gave the Guardian newspaper an ultimatum: hand over the classified documents or destroy them.

Caroline Wilson Palow's picture

Today, Privacy International lodged a legal challenge to GCHQ's extensive and intrusive hacking of personal computers and devices. Below, we answer a few questions about the law underlying our complaint, and why it matters.

Is hacking legal?

As a result of the Snowden revelations, we have learned that GCHQ, often in partnership with the NSA, has been using malicious software to intrude upon our computers and mobile devices.

This type of activity, often called "hacking," is a criminal offense in the UK. The Computer Misuse Act 1990 ("CMA") prohibits unauthorised access to a computer, both to get at any programmes or data on that computer (Section 1) or with knowledge or reckless disregard for the fact that such access may impair the operation of the computer (Section 3).

Eric King's picture
Donate now Privacy International to help fight against unlawful GCHQ hacking!

Spy agencies have long sought to turn the technologies that improve all our lives against us. From some of the very first forms of remote communications such as telegraph cables, to modern-day means like Skype: if the spies can exploit it, they will.

And, as we’ve learnt over the last few months, the computer and mobile devices that millions of us own and carry around with us every day are no exception to this rule.


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