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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: 
The Guardian
Publication date: 
05-Nov-2013
Author(s): 
Nick Hopkins and Matthew Taylor
Original story link: 

Yesterday Privacy International filed complaints with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) against some of the world's leading telecommunication companies for providing assistance to GCHQ's Tempora programme. The group believes up to a dozen OECD guidelines, relating to companies' responsibilities to respect human rights, including the right to privacy and freedom of expression, may have been violated.

Countries: 
In the media
Publisher: 
Ars Technica
Publication date: 
04-Nov-2013
Author(s): 
Cyrus Farivar
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, e-mails, and personal data,” said Eric King of Privacy International in a statement.

Press release

Privacy International today has filed formal complaints with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in the UK against some of the world’s leading telecommunication companies, for providing assistance to British spy agency GCHQ in the mass interception of internet and telephone traffic passing through undersea fibre optic cables.

Press release

Privacy International welcomes the resolution introduced on Friday by Germany and Brazil to the UN General Assembly, affirming the international human right to privacy and its essential nature to the realization of other rights, and condemning mass State surveillance of individuals around the world.

Should the resolution be adopted, it will be the first major statement by a UN body on privacy in 25 years, since General Comment 16 in 1988 by the Human Rights Committee. It is also the first major intergovernmental effort to address the right to privacy and government surveillance since whistleblower Edward Snowden exposed the scope of global surveillance activities being carried out by some of the world’s most powerful governments.

Carly Nyst, Head of International Advocacy at Privacy International, said:

Blog
Alexandrine Pirlot's picture

As anticipated, the Snowden revelations – first referred to in the opening session as the “elephant in the room” – soon became the central focus of many of the 150 workshops that took place during the 8th Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Bali, and dominated the bilateral meetings that took place between governments, the private sector, the tech community, and civil society.

The various stakeholders arrived at the IGF ready to pursue their own agendas. The U.S. came to try and restore its image as a concerned protector of human rights of Internet users; China, to seize the opportunity to portray itself as a support of citizen’s rights in face of mass foreign surveillance programmes of Western democracies; and Brazil used the IGF to reaffirm its leadership for a multi-stakeholder approach which would respect human rights and challenge unethical illegal mass surveillance.

Opinion piece
Anna Crowe's picture

The following is an excerpt from a guest article which appeared on openDemocracy, written by Privacy International's Research Officer, Anna Crowe:

Humanitarian actors often forsake the right to privacy in favour of promoting programmes utilising phones to deliver services, either through a lack of understanding or wilful ignorance as to the risks involved.

It is clear that the massive uptake of mobile phones in developing countries has played a crucial role in the success of many development interventions over the past decade. As well as aiding communication, mobiles have given people access to a range of services and information and revolutionised information collection and recording in humanitarian disasters.

Blog
Dr Gus Hosein's picture

Just search for the term "surveillance state" and you’ll pull up various uses of the term or news articles citing the phrase.

In some respects, this newfound concern can’t be a surprise; given vast new amounts of information in the public sphere since the Edward Snowden leaks began in June. However, it is critical to nail down the exact meaning of the term, so as the public and governments have the debate over State spying, we can actually know what we're talking about. Most importantly, this will help us push back against it.

Blog
Carly Nyst's picture

For the first time since the Snowden revelations exposed the vast reach and scope of Britain's surveillance and intelligence activities, Parliament will openly debate the need for greater oversight of the intelligence and security services.

In the media
Publisher: 
Marketplace
Publication date: 
25-Oct-2013
Author(s): 
Stephen Beard
Original story link: 

Gus Hosein of the Privacy International campaign group says the revelations about Merkel’s mobile have made tougher restrictions on transatlantic data flows more likely. “Now that the heads of state from across Europe are targets for the National Security Agency, they’re going to start taking this matter a hell of a lot more seriously,” Hosein says.  

Blog
Matthew Rice's picture

When a product line becomes engulfed in controversy, the PR team's first move is to distance the corporation from the damage. The surveillance market is not immune to this approach, so when companies products are found to be in use by repressive regimes, the decision many boards make is simply to sell off that technology. This increasingly repetitive narrative is failing to solve any of the problems inherent with the sale of surveillance technology and in fact, is creating more.

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