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Dr Richard Tynan's picture

All across the U.S. on 4 July, thousands of Americans gathered at Restore the Fourth rallies, in support of restoring the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and to protest the recently-disclosed information regarding NSA spying on American citizens. Demonstrations took place in over 100 cities, calling on the U.S. government to respect the privacy rights of citizens in America and individuals around the world.

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Philippe M. Frowd's picture

In the wake of recent revelations about the NSA’s extensive surveillance powers over foreigners and American citizens, an ever-fuller picture of mass surveillance is being drawn in the US, the UK, and across the Western world. But what about clandestine surveillance practices in African states? How do they approximate or differ from those we’ve heard so much about in the last few weeks? A recent case from West Africa can help us begin to answer these questions.

In March, Benin saw its own wiretapping scandal involving familiar elements: accusations of executive overreach and a telecoms company accused of collaborating with state surveillance. 

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Alinda Vermeer's picture

In an encouraging first response to our complaint against surveillance company Gamma International (Gamma), the UK National Contact Point (NCP) of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) announced that it will further investigate our claim against Gamma, as the evidence submitted appears to substantiate our allegations.

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Mike Rispoli's picture

Britain's spy agency, GCHQ, is secretly conducting mass surveillance by tapping fibre optic cables, giving it access to huge amounts of data on both innocent citizens and targeted suspects, according to a report in the Guardian.

Mass, indiscriminate surveillance of this kind goes against an individual's fundamental human right to privacy. The scope and scale of this program, which monitors the entire British public and much of the world, is neither necessary nor proportionate and thus, unjustifiable.

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Anna Fielder's picture

Trade has often been a positive driver in encouraging countries to adopt data protection laws, to ensure compliance and ability to conduct business with the European Union and other privacy-respecting partners. However, when free trade agreements are negotiated in secret and influenced by powerful business interests, the result is a severe watering down of existing privacy protections. 

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Matthew Rice's picture

The government of Pakistan has repeatedly shown it is relentless when it comes to deploying measures to censor and spy on its own citizens. Today, a report released by Citizen Lab reveals another repressive tool being used to control and prevent information being accessed on the internet -- this time with help from the Canadian web-filtering company, Netsweeper.

According to the report "O Pakistan, We Stand on Guard for Thee: An Analysis of Canada-based Netsweeper’s Role in Pakistan’s Censorship Regime", internet filtering software provided by Netsweeper has been installed on the Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL)'s network, the country's largest telecommunications company that also operates the Pakistan Internet Exchange Point. Citizen Lab's report shows that the technology has been used for the purposes of social and political filtering, including websites of secessionist movements, sensitive religious topics, and independent media. 

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Mike Rispoli's picture

Remember when the world didn't know what Prism was? Those were the days. While privacy advocates, civil libertarians, and technologists had suspected or posited the existence of an extensive surveillance regime operated by the U.S. government, few knew the details and the extent of the operation.

Undoubtedly, we know more now than we did a week ago about the National Security Agency's covert operations and how the agency routinely spies on nearly anyone in the world. The public, many of whom were unaware of the mass surveillance conducted by intelligence agencies, or mislead by statements from government officials, are now part of a critical and concrete debate about what privacy actually means in the 21st century.

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Caroline Wilson Palow's picture

Simply put, the National Security Agency is an intelligence agency. Its purpose is to monitor the world's communications, which it traditionally collected by using spy satellites, taps on cables, and placing listening stations around the world.

In 2008, by making changes to U.S. law, the U.S. Congress enabled the NSA to make U.S. industry complicit in its mission. No longer would the NSA have to rely only on international gathering points. It can now go to domestic companies who hold massive amounts of information on foreigners and order them to submit any information of interest to the NSA. This could include the content of communications, documents, photos, videos, or locations and other so-called metadata -- any information held by the companies. No warrant is required -- though there is a secret court review. But that review's primary purpose appears to be to provide assurances that Americans won't be targeted.

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Carly Nyst's picture

This post originally appeared on the blog for Association for Progessive Communications, written by Shawna Finnegan and Carly Nyst, for APCNews and Privacy International:

At the 23rd session of the UN Human Rights Council, the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue, released his latest report – an analysis of the implications of States’ surveillance of communications on the exercise of the human rights to privacy and to freedom of opinion and expression. The report covers a number of important issues, including lack of judicial oversight, unregulated access to communications data, mandatory data retention, exceptions for national security, identity disclosure laws, restrictions on encryption and key disclosure laws, extra territorial application of surveillance laws and extra-legal surveillance.

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Mike Rispoli's picture

UPDATE: The Guardian has just reported that "The UK's electronic eavesdropping and security agency, GCHQ, has been secretly gathering intelligence from the world's biggest internet companies through a covertly run operation set up by America's top spy agency."

This recent news reveals a long-held suspicion that the GCHQ had the very powers they were seeking to place on a statutory footing with the Snooper Charter, a bill that was knocked back for being unnecessary and disproportionate. Keeping the public in the dark about secretive and potentially unlawful programs must stop - and greater oversight is needed to ensure human rights are not being trampled.

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