People often ask me why I investigate the surveillance trade - surely the police and intelligence services need these technologies to prevent serious crime and terrorism? I tell them that I completely agree - targeted surveillance, conducted within strict legal frameworks, can be a socially useful tool. However, vast swathes of the industry are in a different business altogether: mass surveillance.
Mass surveillance is when the state conducts pervasive blanket surveillance of entire populations, or significant proportions of populations, grabbing signals and packets indiscriminately. Surveillance on this scale is never proportionate and is therefore in contravention of international human rights norms - it is also unlawful in most democratic countries.