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Issue

Communications Data Retention

The mass retention of individuals' communications records, outside the context of any criminal investigation or business purpose, amounts to the compilation of dossiers on each and every one of us, our friends, family and colleagues.

Under the justification of tackling terrorism and crime, several countries worldwide have implemented regulation that obliges providers of communication services or networks to retain traffic and location data generated by mobile and landline phones, fax and email. For example, the Data Retention Directive, approved by the European Union in 2006, requires that every telecommunications company in Europe must retain their customers’ records for a period of between six months and two years.

The mass collection and retention of information creates challenges for the right to privacy. Broad-ranging data retention policies result in the indiscriminate creation of vast dossiers of information on everyone’s activities, including location data and communications with friends, families and work colleagues. There are alternative methods of surveillance that are less disproportionate, for example, requiring a court order to allow operators to retain data related just to a specific individual suspected of criminal activity.

We scrutinize the deployment and abuses of data retention policies, and oppose certain policies when we believe them to be dangerous. We work closely with civil society groups and industry to minimize harm, and we closely monitor attempts to expand the reach of data retention policy into new forms of communications, e.g. search engines and social networking.

Communications Data Retention

In the media
Publisher: 
Wired UK
Publication date: 
11-Feb-2014
Author(s): 
Olivia Solon
Original story link: 

Don't Spy On Us is a coalition of organisations that focus on defending privacy, freedom of expression and digital rights in Europe. These include: Open Rights Group, English Pen, Liberty, Privacy International, Big Brother Watch and Article 19.

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In the media
Publisher: 
Deutsche Welle
Publication date: 
22-Jan-2014
Author(s): 
Ben Knight
Original story link: 

"The anti-Snowden discourse is no more than a reflection of the perverse attachment to secrecy and obfuscation that dominates intelligence agencies and undermines the fundamental principles of transparency and accountability," Carly Nyst, legal director at Privacy International, told DW in an email.

"Given the public uproar over the mass surveillance programs revealed by Snowden, discussions such as these are blatant attempts by authorities to deflect attention away from themselves and their illegal spying operations," she added.

Countries: 
In the media
Publisher: 
Democratic Audit Uk
Publication date: 
14-Jan-2014
Original story link: 

Caroline Wilson Palow, Legal Officer, Privacy International said:

"Despite recent attempts by the UK Government to reform the Intelligence and Security Committee through the Justice and Security Act 2013, the continuing Snowden revelations show how feeble UK oversight actually is. It is now widely acknowledged that the ISC’s weaknesses have resulted in an almost ‘siloed’ body with little transference of knowledge or expertise from a core group of representatives to the wider Parliament, much less the public. This in turn leads to a severe lack of accountability, transparency, and ultimately a breakdown in trust – both of the oversight mechanism and of the agencies themselves. But it does not have to be this way.

The ISC’s unwavering defence of the intelligence agencies’ actions is in contrast to the reaction of the similar bodies in the US. While far from perfect, the US response to the Snowden revelations has resulted in a more robust debate about the powers of the intelligence services than we have thus far seen in the UK. Congress and the US courts have placed significant pressure on the US executive and intelligence services to acknowledge the Snowden revelations and reveal additional details regarding the decision-making process that led to such potential abuses of power. That pressure has resulted in much more transparency, which in turn has led to substantive discussions regarding reform. The ISC should take notes."

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Blog
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.

Blog
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. 
 

Blog
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.

Blog
Alexandrine Pirlot's picture

New technologies may hold great benefits for the developing world, but without strong legal frameworks ensuring that rights are adequately protected, they pose serious threats to populations they are supposed to empower.

This is never more evident than with the rapid and widespread implementation of biometric technology. Whilst concerns and challenges are seen in both developed and developing countries when it comes to biometrics, for the latter they are more acute due the absence of laws or flawed legal frameworks, which are failing to uphold and ensure the protection of basic human rights.

Blog
Carly Nyst's picture

Australia’s intelligence agencies have been conducting mass surveillance for more than half a century, routinely sharing the fruits of such labours with their Five Eyes allies in the US, UK, Canada and New Zealand. Australian spying facilities are staffed by the NSA and the UK’s GCHQ, and Australian intelligence officers are routinely tasked with work by their Five Eyes counterparts.  Australia and its allies have infiltrated every aspect of the modern global communications system. And they have done it all in secret.

In the media
Publisher: 
Computer World
Publication date: 
04-Dec-2013
Author(s): 
Hamish Barwick
Original story link: 

According to Privacy International, ASD acted in a manner that violates the laws of the Commonwealth and is contrary to guidelines given to the agency.

The group pointed out that the intelligence agency’s Rules to Protect the Privacy of Australians were released on 2 October 2012 and include the following guidelines:

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In the media
Publisher: 
Delimiter
Publication date: 
04-Dec-2013
Author(s): 
Renai LeMay
Original story link: 

Global privacy organisation Privacy International has filed a formal complaint with Australia’s Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security over a report that the Australian Signals Directorate had offered to hand over data on Australian citizens to foreign intelligence agencies.

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