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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.

Dr Gus Hosein's picture

Bulk metadata collection. The tapping of undersea fibre optic cables. Sabotaging internet security standards. Cyber Attacks. Hacking.

In almost every week since last summer, a new Snowden document has been released which details the growing surveillance powers and practices of intelligence agencies, each one astonishing in its own right. The documents have exposed the illegal activities and intrusive capabilities of the UK’s intelligence agency, GCHQ, which has secretly sought to exploit and control every aspect of our global communications systems.    

Caroline Wilson Palow's picture

The current legal framework governing intelligence activities in the UK is unfit for purpose in the modern digital era, and reform is urgently needed.

With this in mind, today Privacy International responded to the Intelligence and Security Committee’s call for evidence, addressing the question, “Whether the legal framework which governs the security and intelligence agencies’ access to the content of private communications is ‘fit for purpose’, given the developments in information technology since they were enacted.”

While we welcome scrutiny of the UK’s legal framework, we do have concerns about the process. In a separate letter sent to the ISC, Privacy International along with Big Brother Watch and Liberty called on Parliament to establish a full and independent inquiry, given the deeply flawed nature of this present investigation.

Anna Crowe's picture

While revelations about NSA mass surveillance dominated the news in late 2013, a less well-publicised scandal was engulfing the Australian intelligence services, which had just raided the offices of a lawyer representing the small nation of East Timor in an international case against Australia.

The case concerns allegations that Australia spied on East Timor’s cabinet during sensitive commercial negotiations over oil and gas revenues. If true, this was spying on the basis of greed, to exploit the unequal relationship between Australia, a rich, developed country, and East Timor, a newly established state emerging from decades of violence and oppression.

The case exposes shocking conduct by Australia – a member of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing arrangement - and aptly illustrates the need to reign in intelligence services to bring them within the international rule of law.

Kenneth Page's picture

Over the past half year, Privacy International has been investigating the sale of surveillance technology made by South African company VASTech to Libya and what role the government had in promoting and developing the system. Unfortunately, the government has been slow to respond to our questions and has offered only vague answers. This has done little to ease our concerns about the part they played in the development and export of mass surveillance technology to a military regime with a history of internal repression and human rights abuses.

Matthew Rice's picture

The latest Snowden document revelation, which shows how GCHQ and the NSA are conducting broad, real-time monitoring of YouTube, Facebook, and Blogger using a program called "Squeaky Dolphin," is the most recent demonstration of the immense interception capabilities of intelligence services.

Alexandrine Pirlot's picture

Big data consists mainly of data that is openly available, created and stored. It includes public sector data such as national health statistics, procurement and budgetary information, and transport and infrastructure data. While big data may carry benefits for development initiatives, it also carries serious risks, which are often ignored. In pursuit of the promised social benefits that big data may bring, it is critical that fundamental human rights and ethical values are not cast aside.

Expanding beyond publicly accessible data

Along with other humanitarian organisations and UN agencies, one key advocate and user of big data is the UN Global Pulse, launched in 2009 in recognition of the need for more timely information to track and monitor the impacts of global and local socio-economic crises. This innovative initiative explores how digital data sources and real-time analytics technologies can help policymakers understand human well-being and emerging vulnerabilities in real-time, in order to better protect populations from shocks.

Mike Rispoli's picture

The reforms announced today, while positive in some respects, are completely inadequate to address the heart of the problem. Privacy International welcomes steps to minimise the data collected and retained on non-Americans, and the call to increase transparency around requests made to communications service providers. However, in the face of mass surveillance, unaccountable intelligence sharing, arbitrary expansions of the definition of ’national security’, and debased encryption standards, all of which fundamentally threaten the very fabric of American democratic institutions, the Obama administration has chosen to pursue reforms that serve only to tinker around the edges a grave and endemic problem. 

Edin Omanovic's picture

UK parliamentary select committees are charged with overseeing the work of government in relation to particular topical issues or the work of particular departments. When it comes to UK Government policy on arms, it’s the Committees on Arms Export Controls (CAEC) that's responsible: a conglomeration of four select committees made up of serving Members of Parliament that collects evidence and conducts an inquiry into developments in export control policy and the preceding years’ exports of military and dual-use goods.

One of the most valuable aspects of the committees' work is the fact that it provides an avenue for other stakeholders such as civil society, industry, academia, and the general public to provide evidence and influence government policy. For over a year, Privacy International has been engaging the committees highlighting the proliferation of commercial surveillance companies in the UK and the urgent need for action to regulate their activities. Our written evidence to the committees has just been published, which you can find here.

Caroline Wilson Palow's picture

Privacy International's partner organisation, Bytes for All, has filed a complaint against the Government, decrying the human rights violations inherent in such extensive surveillance and demonstrating how the UK's mass surveillance operations and its policies have a disproportionate impact on those who live outside the country.

Bytes for All, a Pakistan-based human rights organization, filed its complaint in the UK Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), the same venue in which Privacy International lodged a similar complaint last July.


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