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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
Anna Crowe's picture

Today’s much-anticipated launch of the 2013 Aid Transparency Index, an industry standard for assessing transparency among major aid donors, shows that, despite progress, many aid agencies continue to maintain secrecy around what they are funding.

Further, for those agencies that achieved high rankings in the index, transparency alone does not prevent one of our larger concerns: aid which facilitates impermissible surveillance of communities and individuals in the developing world. Biometric databases, electronic voting registration systems, criminal databases and border surveillance initiatives are being backed by Western donors keen to see the adoption abroad of technologies that raise considerable controversy at home.

Blog
Caroline Wilson Palow's picture

*Update: The European Parliament has voted to recommend suspension of its Terrorist Finance Tracking Program (TFTP) agreement with the US. The vote in favour of suspension only highlights how the NSA’s reported activities have undermined the agreement. Negotiations should immediately commence to strengthen the privacy and redress provisions, to ensure that governments cannot spy on individuals and obtain their data in violation of the agreement. The recommended suspension of the agreement, however, does not change our position that Europeans are entitled to seek redress regarding the NSA’s breach since the alleged violations occurred while the agreement was still clearly in effect.


Amongst the recent blockbuster revelations of global government surveillance and espionage has emerged a quieter, less ostentatious story surrounding allegations that the NSA is gaining unauthorized access to the international financial messaging system, SWIFT.

Blog
Alinda Vermeer's picture

In our ongoing campaign to prevent the sale of surveillance technologies to repressive regimes, Privacy International today has filed a complaint with the South African body responsible for arms controls, asking for an investigation into South Africa-based surveillance company VASTech for the potential illegal export its technology to Libya.

In this case, Western-made surveillance technology was found by the Wall Street Journal when journalists entered the communications monitoring centre of the Gaddafi regime in August 2011. They found English-language training manuals carrying the logo of a French company called Amesys, and reviewed emails that indicated that VASTech provided Libya with tools to tap and log all international phone calls going in and out of the country.

Blog
Carly Nyst's picture

At the first major discussions on internet governance since the Snowden leaks began in June 2013, Sweden’s Foreign Minister has called for the establishment of principles to define the application of existing human rights obligations to the digital realm.

Noting that the Snowden revelations have given birth to “a new debate about surveillance and privacy”, Foreign Minister Carl Bildt acknowledged that internet governance is being challenged, as some States operate vast surveillance systems without any laws of oversight whatsoever, and others are preparing for offensive operations on the net. He called for a global dialogue on the global norms of behavior on the net, and proposed seven principles that should be observed by States with regard to online surveillance.

Blog
Anna Fielder's picture

The European Parliament Committee that deals with civil liberties and justice issues will have a first vote this week on the revised European data protection framework after months and months of deliberations and negotiations over more than 4,000 amendments. The vote is the first on the framework, which will decide the future of privacy and data protection in Europe. The recent revelations surrounding government surveillance involving some of the Internet's biggest companies have highlighted the urgency of an update of Europe's privacy rules.

In the media
Publisher: 
Ars Technica
Publication date: 
18-Oct-2013
Author(s): 
Cyrus Farivar
Original story link: 

Under Britain's Regulatory and Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) of 2000, the government does have broad powers to conduct digital surveillance. However, many believe that this wholesale data sharing is outside the scope of targeted warrants as described under RIPA. In July 2013, Privacy International, a London-based advocacy group, sued the British government for alleged abuses under the law.

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

Privacy International said Rifkind did not appear to be carrying out an independent review. “The credibility of the ISC will continue to decline while the chair of the committee, Sir Malcom Rifkind, acts as the government’s first line of defence, rather than objectively scrutinizing the facts,” said Eric King, head of research at Privacy International. “While we welcome greater public discussion around the failings of the intelligence services, and look forward to being invited to give evidence to the inquiry and hearing the public evidence sessions, we have grave concerns about the impartiality of the committee.”

Countries: 
In the media
Publisher: 
ACTU24
Publication date: 
14-Oct-2013
Author(s): 
Par Saër SY
Original story link: 

Le fait que ces bases de données existent ouvre les possibilités qu’elles puissent être utilisées de manière illégale, si la finalité de leur utilisation n’était pas celle spécifiée au moment de leur prise » a indiqué Alexandrine Pirlot de Corbion de Privacy international, fondé en 1990.

Countries: 
Blog
Edin Omanovic's picture

A sizeable political controversy has engulfed President Goodluck Jonathan’s Government in Nigeria, where details surrounding its plans for the total surveillance of Africa’s most populous country continue to emerge.

Thanks to pervasive snooping technology readily found and developed in the US, UK, Israel and the Netherlands, the already spy-equipped security forces in Nigeria will have greater and more intimate access to the lives of some 56 million Internet users and 115 million active fixed and mobile phone subscribers. The plans have been roundly condemned by Nigeria’s civil society and press, who fear a drift back to Nigeria’s dictatorial past and to the threat it poses to their fundamental human rights.  The apparent lack of any meaningful judicial framework and oversight for the deployment of the technology has so far not stopped government authorities pushing ahead with increased surveillance.

Opinion piece
Carly Nyst's picture

The following is an excerpt from an article written that originally was published by IFEX, and is written by Carly Nyst, Head of International Advocacy at Privacy International:

The reality of the modern world is that governments – both of our own countries, and of foreign states – have greater capabilities to carry out invasive surveillance of citizens, no matter where they reside or what flag they pledge to. And caught in the cross-fire of the expanding surveillance state is freedom of expression, which is underpinned by the right to privacy.

For a long time there have been legitimate fears of a pervasive surveillance state, and those fears continue to be confirmed by the Edward Snowden leaks, which week after week provide a progressively more terrifying glimpse into international spying regimes. It is now clear that the US and UK governments perceive broad-scale and real-time surveillance, once the reserve of repressive regimes, to be a legitimate tool of democratic states.

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