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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.

Anna Crowe's picture

The following piece originally appeared on Linda Raftree's "Wait...What" blog, a site focusing on bridging community development and technology.

New technologies hold great potential for the developing world, and countless development scholars and practitioners have sung the praises of technology in accelerating development, reducing poverty, spurring innovation and improving accountability and transparency.

Worryingly, however, privacy is presented as a luxury that creates barriers to development, rather than a key aspect to sustainable development. This perspective needs to change.

Dr Gus Hosein's picture

Want to work for a small charity that holds governments and companies to account on surveillance? We are excited to announce three new openings at Privacy International.

PI is embarking on a new project to work with partners across the world to conduct advocacy and investigations into government surveillance programmes. The project will involve research to identify case studies of surveillance abuses by government, and we will work with local investigators to document case studies of human rights abuse relating to surveillance, identify potential victims of wrongful surveillance, and identify witnesses and sources. Advocacy plays a strong role in this project, and we will collaborate with civil society partners to raise awareness about modern communications surveillance capabilities and advocate for policy change to enhance privacy rights.

Alinda Vermeer's picture

Nine months ago, Privacy International, together with the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Bahrain Watch and Reporters without Borders, filed complaints with the OECD against Gamma International, a company that exported the FinFisher intrusive surveillance system and Trovicor, a German company (formerly a business unit of Siemens) which sells internet monitoring and mass surveillance products. This week, we’ve learned that the German National Contact Point (NCP) of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) will not be investigating the most serious allegations included in the complaint against Trovicor.

Edin Omanovic's picture

Privacy International is currently engaged in a joint project on export controls with the Open Technology Institute and Digitale Gesellschaft. The blog post below was co-written by Edin Omanovic and Tim Maurer and is also available on the OTI blog.

Export controls have something of a bad reputation in technology circles, and not without good reason.


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