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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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Georgia Ardizzone's picture

Privacy International welcomes reports that the French Government has come out against the export of surveillance technology to oppressive regimes. According to the French website reflets.info, the State Secretary for the Digital Economy Fleur Pellerin announced her opposition to such exports last Friday, during a radio show hosted by Le Monde and public broadcaster FranceCulture. The statement may indicate a sea change in the government's policies regarding surveillance technology, which have until now been marked by significant investment in the sector.

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Eric King's picture

Privacy International has compiled data on the privacy provisions in national constitutions around the world, including which countries have constitutional protections, whether they come from international agreements, what aspects of privacy are actually protected and when those protections were enacted. We are pleased to make this information available under a Creative Commons license for organizations, researchers, students and the community at large to use to support their work (and hopefully contribute to a greater understanding of privacy rights).

The categories

Though the right to privacy exists in several international instruments, the most effective privacy protections come in the form of constitutional articles. Varying aspects of the right to privacy are protected in different ways by different countries. Broad categories include:

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Emma Draper's picture

Bloomberg reported today that security researchers have identified FinFisher spyware - "one of the world’s best-known and elusive cyber weapons" - in malicious emails sent to Bahraini pro-democracy activists, including a naturalized U.S. citizen who owns gas stations in Alabama, a London-based human rights activist and a British-born economist in Bahrain.

Analysis of the emails by CitizenLab (a project based within the University of Toronto Munk School of Global Affairs) revealed that they contained trojans that infected the target device and then proceeded to take screen shots, intercept voice-over-Internet calls and transmit a record of every keystroke to a computer in the Bahraini capital Manama. The computer code of the malicious program contained multiple instances of the word 'FinSpy'.

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Georgia Ardizzone's picture

The first joint report from the Committees on Arms Export Controls (CAEC), released last Friday, highlighted the importance of careful licensing and independent scrutiny for the export of ‘controlled’ goods, to prevent sales that could ‘facilitate internal repression’ in authoritarian regimes abroad. And as we wrote yesterday, the Committees advised that 10 Downing Street should make good on assurances PI was given in March that the problem of unlicensed surveillance exports would be addressed. 

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Georgia Ardizzone's picture

The 2012 report of the Committees on Arms Export Controls (CAEC), released last Friday, has raised serious concerns over the government’s approach to arms exports, highlighting the use of British exports to facilitate repression and prolong conflict in authoritarian regimes abroad.

In his oral evidence to the Committees, the Foreign Secretary William Hague, stressed that the government’s position on granting export licences for goods on the Export Control list has not changed:

The long-standing British position is clear: we will not issue licences where we judge there is a clear risk that the proposed export might provoke or prolong regional or internal conflicts, or which might be used to facilitate internal repression."

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Mathias Vermeulen's picture

Last Friday the Electronic Frontier Foundation received new information from the US Federal Aviation Administration in response to their FOIA demanding data on certifications and authorizations the agency has issued for the operation of unmanned aircraft.

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Carly Nyst's picture

Privacy is internationally recognized as a fundamental right. Yet the confines of the right to privacy are subject to never-ending games of tug-of-war between individuals, governments and corporations. These games are rarely fair – individuals are often under-informed and lack the capacity to assert and protect their privacy, while those who seek to erode it are increasingly overbearing and secretive. This is particularly the case in developing countries, where the absence of adequate legal and institutional frameworks and safeguards facilitates unhindered corporate intrusion into privacy. Governments also collect and share excessive amounts of personal data in the name of development, security and the modernization of public administration. In many developing countries, though constitutional provisions may already exist, privacy is still being entrenched, and the capacity of human rights organizations to educate and advocate is still growing. But in the meantime, governments are spying on their citizens, corporations are buying and selling personal data, and individuals are consistently losing the tug-of-war. 

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Eric King's picture

In the first public admission of its kind, the Home Office's Peter Hill admitted this week that the British government routinely sweeps up the identities of thousands of people in a given area - with a single request to a mobile phone network.

The statement was made during the first hearing of the Joint Committee on the Draft Communications Data Bill, at which Mr Hill (Head of Unit for Pursue Policy and Strategy Unit at the Home Office), Charles Farr (Director of the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism) and Richard Alcock (Director of the Communications Capability Directorate) gave evidence to support the Home Office's latest legislative attempt to implement mass surveillance in the UK.

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Sam Smith's picture

This weekend, the Department for Education sponsored an "appathon", allowing attendees access to the National Pupil Database (which holds information like exam results, special education needs, truancy records and eligibility for free school meals on every child at every state school in the country) and inviting people to build "apps".

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