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Robin Wilton's picture

We are the raw material of the new economy. Data about all of us is being prospected for, mined, refined and traded...and most of us don’t even know about it.

Every time we go online, we add to a personal digital footprint that’s interconnected across multiple service providers, and enrich massive caches of personal data that identify us, whether we have explicitly authenticated or not.

That may make you feel somewhat uneasy. It's pretty hard to manage your digital footprint if you can't even see it.

Although none of us can control everything that’s known about us online, there are steps we can take to understand and regain some level of control over our online identities, and the Internet Society has developed three interactive tutorials to help educate and inform users who would like to find out more.

We set out to answer some basic questions about personal data and privacy:

Chloe Shuffrey's picture

The social news website confirmed yesterday that the prominent French technology firm Bull SA has sold its controversial mass surveillance "Eagle" system to Stéphane Salies, one of its chief designers and an ex-director of Bull. The surveillance software was previously manufactured and supplied by Bull’s subsidiary, Amesys, a company that is currently the subject of a judicial enquiry in Paris following a legal complaint filed by two human rights organisations, the International Federation for Human Rights and the Human Rights League. It is alleged that the company became complicit in acts of torture by supplying its Eagle surveillance equipment to the Gaddafi regime in Libya.

After manuals bearing the Amesys logo were discovered by journalists from Wall Street Journal in the old regime’s internal security building, Amesys admitted that in 2007 it had contracted with the Libyan government to develop and supply internet surveillance technology that would enable Libyan authorities to intercept the communications of political activists and dissidents on a mass scale.

Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan's picture

On November 12, the Russian Supreme Court okayed the wiretapping of an opposition activist. The Court ruled that spying on Maxim Petlin, a regional opposition leader in Yekaterinburg, was lawful, since he had taken part in rallies where calls against extending the powers of Russia’s security services were heard. The court decided that these were demands for “extremist actions” and approved surveillance carried out by the national interception system, known as SORM.

Manned by the country’s main security service, the FSB, this ”System of Operative Search Measures” has been in use for more than two decades. But recently, SORM has been upgraded. It is ingesting new types of data. It is being used as Moscow’s main tool for spying on the country’s political protesters. And it has become extremely useful in the quest to make sure that the Kremlin’s influence in the former Soviet Union continues long into the second regime of Vladimir Putin.

Eric King's picture

Privacy International’s campaign for effective export controls of surveillance technology is still ongoing, but for one company, action can already be taken by HM Revenue & Customs to hold stop their unethical practices. Here is the story so far...

Maria Xynou's picture

It was only last year that women in Saudi Arabia finally gained the right to vote. However, it seems a sad case of ‘one step forward, two steps back’, as this year it was discovered that all Saudi women are being electronically tracked by their male ‘guardians’, who are automatically sent text messages when their female ‘dependants’ attempt to cross the border. For women seeking to escape abusive relationships, or simply the severe generalised oppression of women that operates throughout Saudi Arabia, this measure could be the nail in their coffins.

The automatic text alerts are part of an electronic passport system which was launched last year by Saudi authorities. However, the scheme of alerting male guardians to the cross-border movements of female dependents with SMS messages is thought to have been in operation for the past two years on an opt-in basis.

Sam Smith's picture

A full analysis of the UK Information Commissioner's "Anonymisation code of practice: managing data protection risk" will take time and working knowledge of how the code is used in practice. 

Maria Xynou's picture

Next week, the European Parliament will make an important decision affecting one of the world’s most vulnerable and stigmatised groups of people: asylum seekers. This decision is part of a larger debate about privacy and function creep, about authorities breaking promises that were made when personal information was collected and using it for new purposes.

Dr Gus Hosein's picture

Twelve years after the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) was passed by the UK Parliament, permitting the interception of communications without a judicial warrant and allowing the police to self-authorise access to communications metadata, some parts of this dangerous law are finally being properly scrutinised. This isn't an intentional review, but rather a by-product of a joint parliamentary committee's interrogation of the draft Communications Data Bill, the Home Office's latest scheme for mass retention of communications and online activity in the UK. After hearing evidence from politicians, civil servants, industy and civil society about current surveillance practices in Britain, the Joint Committee were particularly damning about the RIPA regime in their final report, published yesterday. They wrote: 

Emma Draper's picture

Today we launch the public consultation process for the International Principles on Communications Surveillance and Human Rights. From now until January 3rd, we are inviting comments and suggestions on the draft principles.

Nigel Waters's picture

There have been two rounds of meetings in 2012 of the OECD Committee for Information, Computer and Communications Policy (ICCP ) and some of its working parties – in May and October 2012, with further meeting of two working parties in December.  A ‘foresight forum’ on the ‘big data’ theme was held on 22 October. Civil society interest in the ICCP work programme is formalised through the Civil Society Information Society Advisory Council (CSISAC).


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