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Dr Richard Tynan's picture

The 'GSOC saga' began a number of weeks ago with the revelation that the oversight body of the Irish police force, the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission (GSOC), may have been the target of sophisticated electronic surveillance. A security company, Verrimus, found that there was evidence that an IMSI Catcher device may have been deployed in the vicinity of GSOC's offices which could have intercepted all mobile phone communications of its officers and anyone visiting the offices.

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Dr Gus Hosein's picture

In Geneva this week, an expert seminar will be held at the Human Rights Council on the right to privacy. To inform these discussions and debates, Privacy International is releasing our report, The State of Privacy 2014, which identifies recent accomplishments from around the world, and highlights significant challenges ahead for this right.

To read the full report, go here.

Promoting and defending the right to privacy in national and international policy discourses is always an interesting challenge. The right to privacy is fundamental to who we are as human beings, insulating our most intimate and personal thoughts and deeds, and acts as a critical safeguard against abuse and overreach by pow- erful institutions. It is perhaps for these reasons that the right has for so long been under attack by governments.

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Anna Crowe's picture

“Open government” – the push for greater transparency, accountability and innovation from governments – is an idea that has gained increasing traction in recent years, as the potential for new technologies to enhance democracy is being realised.

But making government more open and responsive should not mean compromising on privacy and data protection. The Open Government Guide outlines steps governments can take towards more open government and Privacy International has written a draft chapter on privacy for the Guide, which is now open for comment.

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Alinda Vermeer's picture

On Monday, Privacy International submitted a dossier to the National Cyber Crime Unit of the National Crime Agency on behalf of Ethiopian political refugee Tadesse Kersmo, asking them to investigate the potentially unlawful interception of Tadesse's communications, as well as the role a British company played in developing and exporting the invasive commercial surveillance software called FinSpy that was found on Tadesse's computer.

Here, we address some of the legal questions surrounding the complaint.

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Edin Omanovic's picture

Political activist and university lecturer Tadesse Kersmo believed that he was free from intrusive surveillance when he was granted political asylum in the UK. Instead, he was likely subject to more surveillance than ever. His case underlines the borderless nature of advanced surveillance technologies and why it represents such a massive problem.

In the past, those fleeing conflict or persecution could reasonably expect a degree of respite if they managed to escape their circumstances. However, the nature of modern surveillance and its ability to facilitate oppression has changed this. When it comes to surveillance, familiar concepts of borders and nation states are becoming increasingly irrelevant. For refugees, this has grave implications.

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Dr Richard Tynan's picture

In the ongoing story about the possible surveillance of the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission in Ireland, a number of new details have emerged from Verrimus, the security consultancy agency tasked with investigating the spying. A recent Irish Independent report levelled a number of criticisms at Verrimus, saying that Verrimus in fact detected their own UK phones during their sweep and that they erroneously claimed this to be evidence of a UK IMSI Catcher.

In response to the Independent’s claims, Verrimus stated:

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Caroline Wilson Palow's picture

Post updated on 14 April to reflect response from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Would you like to read the current international agreements establishing the intelligence sharing arrangements that underpin the work of the NSA and GCHQ? The rules that govern massive, coordinated communications surveillance operations, hacking, and the exploitation of networks and devices in the name of national security and the public interest?

What about the guidelines that set the boundaries of what certain cooperating intelligence agencies can and cannot do to the citizens of their own countries, and to foreigners?

Well, you can’t.

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Alinda Vermeer's picture

After suffering years of persistent harassment, violence, and surveillance at the hands of his oppressive government, Tadesse Kersmo had enough. Tired of living under constant monitoring, Tadesse and his wife escaped Ethiopia, where they had been politically active for years, and were granted asylum in the United Kingdom in 2009.

It was only a few years later that they discovered that this escape was an illusion, and that they had been followed from Ethiopia to England. He may have left his country, but Tadesse was still a target.

He wasn’t followed physically, however - the surveillance was much more clandestine. Tadesse appears to have been tracked through his computer via a Trojan that is part of a commercial intrusion kit called FinFisher.

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Anna Crowe's picture

This post, written by Privacy International Research Officer Anna Crowe, originally appeared on the New Zealand Human Rights Blog, a website dedicated to discussion and debate on issues relating to Human Rights in New Zealand and around the world.


While domestic debates around the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) have focused on its role in spying on New Zealanders, more questions need to be asked about its involvement in mass surveillance of the electronic communications of people living outside New Zealand. Now the European Parliament, a body directly elected by the citizens of the 28 countries of the European Union (EU), is taking New Zealand to task for spying on Europeans’ communications.

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Dr Richard Tynan's picture

The recent revelations surrounding the bugging of the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) has raised a number of important questions about the use of surveillance technologies in Ireland, including whether fake base stations were deployed in order to monitor mobile networks near GSOC's office.

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