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Carly Nyst's picture

At the first major discussions on internet governance since the Snowden leaks began in June 2013, Sweden’s Foreign Minister has called for the establishment of principles to define the application of existing human rights obligations to the digital realm.

Noting that the Snowden revelations have given birth to “a new debate about surveillance and privacy”, Foreign Minister Carl Bildt acknowledged that internet governance is being challenged, as some States operate vast surveillance systems without any laws of oversight whatsoever, and others are preparing for offensive operations on the net. He called for a global dialogue on the global norms of behavior on the net, and proposed seven principles that should be observed by States with regard to online surveillance.

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Anna Fielder's picture

The European Parliament Committee that deals with civil liberties and justice issues will have a first vote this week on the revised European data protection framework after months and months of deliberations and negotiations over more than 4,000 amendments. The vote is the first on the framework, which will decide the future of privacy and data protection in Europe. The recent revelations surrounding government surveillance involving some of the Internet's biggest companies have highlighted the urgency of an update of Europe's privacy rules.

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Edin Omanovic's picture

A sizeable political controversy has engulfed President Goodluck Jonathan’s Government in Nigeria, where details surrounding its plans for the total surveillance of Africa’s most populous country continue to emerge.

Thanks to pervasive snooping technology readily found and developed in the US, UK, Israel and the Netherlands, the already spy-equipped security forces in Nigeria will have greater and more intimate access to the lives of some 56 million Internet users and 115 million active fixed and mobile phone subscribers. The plans have been roundly condemned by Nigeria’s civil society and press, who fear a drift back to Nigeria’s dictatorial past and to the threat it poses to their fundamental human rights.  The apparent lack of any meaningful judicial framework and oversight for the deployment of the technology has so far not stopped government authorities pushing ahead with increased surveillance.

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Alexandrine Pirlot's picture

The argument that human rights are a Western concept and that privacy is not a concern for the developing world was rejected last week in a two-day civil society seminar held in Dakar, Senegal.

More than 30 members of West African civil society participated in the seminar on privacy and data protection, organised by Jonction with the support of the Senegalese Commission for Data Protection. Participants denounced the shortcomings of governments and the private sector in upholding, protecting and promoting the right to privacy and personal data. The seminar was held in collaboration with Privacy International and IDRC as part of Privacy International’s “Privacy in the developing world project”.

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Mike Rispoli's picture

It was a strangely quiet summer. Beyond the Guardian's reporting of the Edward Snowden leaks and an appearance of William Hague before Parliament, there has been little uproar from the establishment about the extensive surveillance regime operated by the NSA and GCHQ.

No more greater has the silence been felt than from Whitehall, where MPs and government agencies remained tightlipped on the whole affair. This despite the fact that the revelations detailed the UK government's role in mass spying around the world, specifically that the communications of almost everybody in the UK are being intercepted and stored as part of GCHQ's Tempora programme.

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Carly Nyst's picture

As if those in Pakistan did not have enough to worry about when it came to the security of their communications, recent changes to Pakistan’s anti-terror law could see people convicted for terrorism solely on the basis of incriminating text messages, phone calls, or email.

As part of a drive to increase the number of convictions of terror suspects, the government of Pakistan has recently beefed up its anti-terror laws through a presidential ordinance that will permit prolonged detention of terror suspects and the expanded use of email and phone evidence in certain criminal trials. It is just another indication of Pakistan’s drift toward authoritarianism and the government’s total disregard for the human rights of their citizens.

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Kenneth Page's picture

Update: This week we received a response to our letters when we called on the President of the Swiss Confederation, Ueli Maurer, and the Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter, to step into the debate and refuse the licence applications for surveillance technology that are currently awaiting approval for export out of Switzerland. While their offices themselves did not reply to us, it is clear our message got through as the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) wrote to us on their behalf.

In their letter, the SECO confirmed to us that the situation was not yet resolved, and a decision was still pending. We hope this is an indication the government is as concerned as we are as to how FinFisher is used by repressive states. Let’s hope this non-approval continues - we’ll be watching.

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Carly Nyst's picture

What a difference a few months, and some intelligence agency leaks, make.

In early June an important report warning of increasing State surveillance was submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council. It was met with barely more than scant attention.  Days later, Edward Snowden’s leaks hit the front page of the Guardian, and woke the world up to how intelligence agencies in the US and UK are using questionable legal justifications to spy on their own citizens and the world.

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Carly Nyst's picture

The Zimbabwean government extended its reach into the private lives of its citizens this week by promulgating a new law establishing a central database of information about all mobile telephone users in the country. The Statutory Instrument 142 of 2013 on Postal and Telecommunications (Subscriber Registration) Regulations 2013, gazetted last Friday, raises new challenges to the already embattled rights to privacy and free expression in Zimbabwe, increasing the potential that the repressive state will spy on its citizens and further clamp down on free speech.

The approval of the Statutory Instrument clearly shows a disregard for the rights to privacy and free expression protected by the new Zimbabwean constitution. Mandatory SIM card registration eradicates the potential for anonymity of communications, enables location-tracking, and simplifies communications surveillance and interception.

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Kenneth Page's picture

For some time now, Gamma International has been criticised for exporting dangerous surveillance technologies from the UK to repressive regimes. Now, we are learning that the company is taking its show on the road, as recent reports have said that Gamma are now attempting to export its products, including the spyware FinFisher, out of Switzerland.

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