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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

Blog
Kenneth Page's picture

Today's hearing was built up in some media circles as an historic ‘public grilling’ of the heads of the UK’s Intelligence Agencies as Mi5, Mi6 and GCHQ appeared in public in front of their oversight committee, the Intelligence and Security Committee.

Nothing would be further from the truth. It was tame, predictable, and limp. No member of the public concerned with the activities of our intelligence agencies would be comforted by the ISC’s performance. The Committee was almost fawning in their attitude and showed a near sense of embarrassment at having to hold them to account in public at all.

For security reasons, the live steam was on a 2 minute delay in case national security secrets were discussed. From the outset, Chair of the Committee (and former Government Foreign Secretary) Sir Malcolm Rifkind noted that this delay would probably not be needed. That should have given an early indication that the questions would not unsettle those giving evidence.

Blog
Sam Smith's picture

The heads of the main UK Intelligence Agencies are all giving evidence to Parliament today, on camera for the first time. The fact that this has as of yet not happened demonstrates how obsolete the UK’s oversight regime is. The UK political establishment revels in its historical traditions, but this can result in archaic proceedings, stuck in another century, refusing to move forward with the modern era. With a time delay (allegedly a few minutes, but possibly 20 years), we get to view the stream of the third debate in three weeks. Whether it’s more like the first monologue, or the second sideshow remains to be seen. It makes for interesting TV, but it’s not primetime drama.

[Spoiler alert ahead for those fans of award-winning political dramas]

In the media
Publisher: 
Deutsche Welle
Publication date: 
04-Nov-2013
Author(s): 
Ben Knight
Original story link: 

 Though it is unsurprising that allied intelligence agencies cooperate and share information, the document did reveal a new facet of the relationship. "What we weren't previously aware of was the level of collusion when it comes to getting round surveillance law," Privacy International spokesman Mike Rispoli told DW. "We can't really be sure, but what we can infer is that when government officials discuss information sharing, they say, 'look at our laws here, look at what we're doing, look how lax our surveillance law is here, … you should get on board with this.' "

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

"With each passing day, the public finds out more and more how private companies are colluding with governments to operate mass surveillance programs that intercept our daily phone calls, text messages, emails and personal data," said Eric King, head of research at Privacy International.

"Far from being coerced, it appears some of the companies have gone well beyond their legal responsibility by colluding with GCHQ on its Tempora [data collection] programme.

In the media
Publisher: 
CorpWatch
Publication date: 
04-Nov-2013
Author(s): 
Pratap Chatterjee
Original story link: 

Six global telecommunications companies - British Telecom, Interoute, Level Three, Verizon Enterprise, Viatel and Vodafone Cable - are the subject of a formal complaint by Privacy International for potential violation of human rights such as the right to privacy and freedom of expression.

In the media
Publisher: 
Tech World
Publication date: 
05-Nov-2013
Author(s): 
John E Dunn
Original story link: 

“We call on these companies to do the right thing and halt their involvement with mass surveillance and hope the OECD will investigate what steps, if any, the companies took to defend the human rights of their customers," said King.

In the media
Publisher: 
The Inquirer
Publication date: 
05-Nov-2013
Author(s): 
Dave Neal
Original story link: 

Privacy International is challenging ISPs BT and Vodafone and other companies in the telecommunications industry, including Viatel, Verizon and Level 3.

It has also tried to take the UK government in front of a legal tribunal (PDF) to ascertain whether it has acted outside the law, and has filed a claim with the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT).

In the media
Publisher: 
PC World
Publication date: 
05-Nov-2013
Author(s): 
Loek Essers
Original story link: 

Privacy International has filed complaints against U.K. telecommunications companies for assisting British intelligence agency Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) with mass interception of telephone and Internet traffic that passes through undersea fiber optic cables.

The formal complaints were filed with the U.K. office of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which publishes guidelines for responsible business conduct followed by 44 governments including the U.K.

In the media
Publisher: 
PC Pro
Publication date: 
05-Nov-2013
Author(s): 
Shona Ghosh
Original story link: 

Privacy International argued that while tech firms such as Google, Facebook and Yahoo have been able to prove their resistance to government access requests, BT, Level 3 and the other companies appear to have rolled over under pressure.

"With each passing day, the public finds out more and more how private companies are colluding with governments to operate mass surveillance programs that intercept our daily phone calls, text messages, emails, and personal data," said the group's head of research, Eric King.

"It is unconscionable to think that the companies that carry our most personal information either refuse to stand up for us, or remain silent when our rights are violated," he said.

Countries: 
In the media
Publisher: 
TechWeek Europe
Publication date: 
05-Nov-2013
Author(s): 
Tom Brewster
Original story link: 

The group believes the companies may have violated a number of OECD guidelines on human rights, including the right to privacy and freedom of expression, by giving GCHQ access to their fibre-optic cables. It had already written to the providers, but received no response.

Privacy International now wants a formal investigation, and for the companies to come clean about how they collaborated with GCHQ on snooping programmes, like the cable tapping Tempora project.

Countries: 

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