Privacy International defends the right to privacy across the world, and fights surveillance and other intrusions into private life by governments and corporations. Read more »


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

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."

In the media
Publisher: 
The Washington Post
Publication date: 
22-Nov-2013
Original story link: 

The five rights groups — Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, The Electronic Frontier Foundation, Access and Privacy International — said this provision will ensure that the issue stays on the front burner at the United Nations.

In the media
Publisher: 
Forbes
Publication date: 
21-Nov-2013
Author(s): 
Runa Sandvik
Original story link: 

Privacy International has released a collection of 1,203 documents on the private surveillance sector, detailing mass surveillance technologies capable of covertly collecting millions of emails, text messages, and phone calls on citizens around the world. The documents mention two companies known for selling Internet monitoring technology and unpublished software vulnerabilities to the U.S. National Security Agency.

In the media
Publisher: 
The Verge
Publication date: 
20-Nov-2013
Author(s): 
Jacob Kastrenakes
Original story link: 

Advocacy group Privacy International has put together an extensive report on the powerful surveillance technologies being sold by private companies. The findings, it says, are "downright scary" and show that private companies are capable of acquiring spying tools just as capable as what the NSA and GCHQ are using. The details have all been collected in a database called the Surveillance Industry Index, which details the offerings of over 300 companies from across the globe. Some of the technologies being sold include a Trojan that can turn on a webcam and capture photos, software for eavesdropping, and tools that can wiretap undersea cables.

In the media
Publisher: 
Gizmodo
Publication date: 
20-Nov-2013
Author(s): 
Adam Clark Estes
Original story link: 

The anti-surveillance group Privacy International just published a massive store of documents related to private companies selling surveillance equipment on the global market, and the contents are unsettling. In total, there are 1,203 documents detailing 97 different surveillance technologies, including everything from sophisticated spy cameras to software that can intercept phone call data, text messages and emails—just like the NSA does. The companies are also marketing these things to some of the world's worst despots.

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

Stanley spoke as a new database revealed the number of private firms now selling spying tools and mass surveillance technologies. Some of the systems allow countries to snoop on millions of emails, text messages and phone calls.

The Surveillance Industry Index, which was compiled by Privacy International, has more than 1,200 brochures gathered from private trade fairs over the last four years. The events give firms a chance to tout powerful capabilities that are usually associated with government agencies such as GCHQ and its US counterpart, the National Security Agency.

Countries: 

Pages

Subscribe to Communications Data Retention