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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

Press release

Privacy International today has filed a complaint with the Australian Inspector-General of Intelligence Security, calling for an immediate investigation into deeply troubling reports that the Australian intelligence services offered to violate the privacy rights of millions of citizens by handing over bulk metadata to its Five Eye partners.

Opinion piece
Eric King's picture

The following is an excerpt from a Comment originally publihsed by The Guardian, written by Privacy International's Head of Research, Eric King:

As the global public reels from yet another Snowden revelation – this time, that the US and UK intelligence forces have hacked into and planted spyware on more than 50,000 computer networks worldwide – the hypocrisy of the US and British governments is brought into sharp relief. Less than four years ago Hillary Clinton, chastising China, declared that "countries or individuals that engage in cyber attacks should face consequences and international condemnation. In an interconnected world, an attack on one nation's networks can be an attack on all." Given what we now know to be the "Five Eyes" complete stranglehold on the world's internet infrastructure, how can we possibly reconcile repeated American appeals to internet freedom and condemnation of Chinese internet monitoring with US-sponsored network hacking?

In the media
Publisher: 
BBC
Publication date: 
27-Nov-2013
Original story link: 

Privacy International spokesman Mike Rispoli said: "What is frightening about the NSA's capabilities are that they collect massive amounts of information on everyone, including your political beliefs, contacts, relationships and internet histories.

"While these documents suggest this type of personal attacks are targeted in nature, do not forget that the NSA is conducting mass surveillance on the entire world and collecting a vast amount of information on nearly everyone."

In the media
Publisher: 
Mail and Guardian
Publication date: 
22-Nov-2013
Author(s): 
Siyabonga Mchunu
Original story link: 

In a letter to Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies last week, prominent London-based charity Privacy International expressed concern about the funding connections between the department and South African firm VASTech.

The annual report of the department’s support programme for industrial innovation shows that R1.3-million was granted to VASTech’s Zebra E128 software system in 2005. Responding to ama­Bhungane’s questions, the department confirmed that this project was completed in 2008.

Countries: 
In the media
Publisher: 
Wired
Publication date: 
22-Nov-2013
Author(s): 
Carola Frediani
Original story link: 

“ L'approvazione della risoluzione non provocherà delle azioni concrete immediate, ma dal punto di vista normativo sarà una dichiarazione di principio forte, aiutando il fronte di chi combatte la sorveglianza globale. Inoltre permetterà di capire, anche a livello di singoli Stati, chi è disposto a sostenere gli Stati Uniti sulla strada del controllo di massa e chi invece si oppone”, commenta a Wired.it Carly Nyst di Privacy International. “Certo gli Usa e la Gran Bretagna hanno cercato di modificare il linguaggio, ma non sono riusciti veramente a cambiare il senso della risoluzione: ad esempio volevano far togliere i riferimenti alla sorveglianza “extraterritoriale”, che invece sono rimasti”.

Blog
Matthew Rice's picture

Let's be clear: private surveillance companies are not just selling a product. Companies do not merely pack their product into a box and put it in the post. More often than not, surveillance firms sell a consultancy service, one that actively provides pre-sale consultancy, installation of the product, and training on how to operate the technology. When the product breaks, companies often provide ongoing technical support, with some companies sending over of consultants for up to 18 months to provide in-depth support to agencies. A number of companies also operate 24/7 support lines for agencies to contact with their queries.

The consultancy services provided must not be overlooked. Indeed, it is just as dangerous as the technology itself and increases the level of complicity in the perpetration of human rights abuses between Western surveillance companies and the regimes that make up their customer base.

Blog
Carly Nyst's picture

Privacy International is proud to announce our new project, Eyes Wide Open, which aims to pry open the Five Eyes arrangement and bring it under the rule of law. Read our Special Report "Eyes Wide Open" and learn more about the project below.

For almost 70 years, a secret post-war alliance of five English-speaking countries has been building a global surveillance infrastructure to “master the internet” and spy on the worlds communications. This arrangement binds together the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand to create what’s collectively known as the Five Eyes.

Blog
Carly Nyst's picture

With the launch of the "Eyes Wide Open" project, Privacy International has put together a fact sheet about the secretive Five Eyes alliance. Consider this a guide to the secret surveillance alliance that has infiltrated every aspect of the modern global communications system.

• Beginning in 1946, an alliance of five English-speaking countries (the US, the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand) developed a series of bilateral agreements over more than a decade that became known as the UKUSA agreement, establishing the Five Eyes alliance for the purpose of sharing intelligence, primarily signals intelligence (SIGINT).

• While almost 70 years old, the arrangement is so secretive that the Australian prime minister reportedly wasn’t informed of its existence until 1973 and no government officially acknowledged the arrangement by name until 1999.

Blog
Sam Smith's picture

For nearly 30 years, the UK's wiretapping laws have been the subject of annual reports. Since 2002, they are available around the web (for now), but earlier than that, it is a rabbit warren of possible locations.

In practice, the reports are solely available from the Parliamentary Archives if and only if you are a member of an institution which has paid for access. Requesting a copy from elsewhere sends you to this destination.

The current Interception of Communications Commissioner didn't particularly want them on his website, as many agencies are (and were for years) paranoid about people knowing how many warrants are in use at any one time. As much as we disagree with his opinion that a historical representation of oversight isn't important, we disagree more with his belief current oversight is effective.

So when the Government claims that these reports provide public evidence of transparency and oversight, those claims are meaningless if the historical reports can not be read.

In the media
Publisher: 
The Guardian
Publication date: 
22-Nov-2013
Author(s): 
Nick Hopkins and Matthew Taylor
Original story link: 

Privacy International said it had long suspected that members of Five Eyes have been playing "a game of jurisdictional arbitrage to sidestep domestic laws governing interception and collection of data".

"Secret agreements such as these must be placed under the microscope to ensure they are adequately protecting the rights of British citizens," said Eric King, the group's head of research.

"The British government has repeatedly insisted that appropriate warrants were in place in all instances of international intelligence collaboration. We now know this isn't the whole truth. Trust must be restored, and our intelligence agencies must be brought under the rule of law. Transparency around an accountability for these secret agreements is a crucial first step."

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