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Issue

Communications Surveillance

Interception and monitoring of individuals' communications is becoming more widespread, more indiscriminate and more invasive, just as our reliance on electronic communications increases.

Nearly all major international agreements on human rights protect the right of individuals to be free from unwarranted surveillance. This guarantee has trickled down into national constitutional or legal provisions protecting the privacy of communications.

In most democratic countries, intercepts of oral, telephone and digital communications are initiated by law enforcement or intelligence agencies only after approval by a judge, and only during the investigation of serious crimes.
Yet government agencies continue to lobby for increased surveillance capabilities, particularly as technologies change. Communications surveillance has expanded to Internet and digital communications. In many countries, law enforcement agencies have required internet providers and telecommunications companies to monitor users’ traffic. Many of these activities are carried out under dubious legal basis and remain unknown to the public.

We have conducted investigations to uncover communications surveillance schemes and the technologies that enable communications surveillance. We also work with technology providers to promote the use of secure communications technologies, and have worked with human rights groups to train them in securing their communications. We continue to monitor the use of communications surveillance, advocate for transparency and independent authorization and oversight, and promote other safeguards against abuse.

Communications Surveillance

Blog
Anna Crowe's picture

The government of Pakistan is proposing a new law that significantly threatens privacy rights, in a blatant attempt to establish a legal regime containing broad powers when it comes to obtaining, retaining, and sharing data obtained through criminal investigations, including communications data.

The Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2014, contains worrying aspects that threaten the right to privacy, including a provision that would permit unregulated information sharing with foreign governments. Pakistani rights groups are echoing Privacy International’s concerns and demanding that the draft law be rewritten. Pakistan has a poor human rights record and passing the law in its current form would represent a further step backwards in the protection of fundamental rights, such as the right to privacy.

In the media
Publisher: 
Heise Online
Publication date: 
15-Apr-2014
Original story link: 

Ob CAUSE, das international von Amnesty International, der internationalen Liga für Menschenrechte, dem Open Technology Institute und Privacy International unterstützt wird, wirklich Druck ausüben kann, wird sich zeigen. Die moralische Verantwortung der Hersteller von Überwachungssoftware ist offenbar kaum vorhanden. So wickelte Gamma ihre Geschäfte über eine Briefkastenfirma in Singapur ab oder versuchte, über eine Schweizer Firma Geschäfte zu machen. Immerhin gibt es Anzeichen dafür, dass Veröffentlichtungen etwas bewirken können. So ermittelte die französische Staatsanwaltschaft gegen die Firma Amesys, deren Produkte in Libyen und Syrien gefunden wurden.

In the media
Publisher: 
Deutsche Welle
Publication date: 
15-Apr-2014
Original story link: 

The new Coalition Against Unlawful Surveillance Exports has launched, which include rights groups like Privacy International.

In the media
Publisher: 
The News on Sunday
Publication date: 
13-Apr-2014
Author(s): 
Shahzada Irfan Ahmed
Original story link: 

Privacy International, a registered UK charity founded in 1990 which was the first to campaign at an international level on privacy issues, identifies certain loopholes in Pakistan’s draft law on cyber crime.

In a statement shared with TNS, it states: “In particular, we reiterate that the lack of procedural safeguards against surveillance activities carried out by intelligence agencies poses a serious threat to human rights, especially the right to privacy. We also emphasise the importance of establishing a competent independent oversight mechanism that has the ability to access all potentially relevant information about state actions.”

Countries: 
Blog
Carly Nyst's picture

As privacy and free expression advocates hail the demise of the Data Retention Directive at the hands of the European Court of Justice, one large question is looming in the midst of celebration.

Now what? 

More specifically, what will be its impact of the national laws of the European Union countries? What steps should EU governments be taking to ensure the Court’s decision is given effect? What are the implications for communications service providers who have been collecting and storing data in accordance with the Directive for many years? How can we ensure that this harmful practice is ceased immediately?

Press release

The ruling today from the European Court of Justice, invalidating the European Union’s 2006 Data Retention Directive policy, was strong and unequivocal: the right to privacy provides a fundamental barrier between the individual and powerful institutions, and laws allowing for indiscriminate, blanket retention on this scale are completely unacceptable.

As the Court states, it is not, and never was, proportionate to spy on the entire population of Europe. The types of data retained under this hastily-enacted Directive are incredibly revealing about our lives, including our daily activities and whom we have relationships with. It is right and overdue that this terrible directive was struck down.

In the media
Publisher: 
TechPresident
Publication date: 
08-Apr-2014
Author(s): 
Carola Frediani
Original story link: 

“What is unique about the CAUSE coalition are the groups that are part of it,” Mike Rispoli, Communication Manager of UK-based Privacy International, says to techPresident. “You have organizations like Privacy International, as well as Open Technology Institute or Digitale Gesellschaft, that focus on technology, digital rights, etc., but you also have more traditional human rights groups like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Reporters without Borders. The reason why this is so important is that there’s a broad recognition that surveillance technologies pose significant threat to the enjoyment of rights around the world, not just the right to privacy but also freedom of expression.”

“However, what we are seeing increasingly is that the types of governments buying these technologies have a horrendous track record in terms of human rights. So the company's standpoint can’t just be: ‘We are selling them for legitimate purposes,'" says Rispoli. "We would like to see more restrictions and regulations in place that would prevent the sale of these technologies to repressive regimes, just like how the traditional arm trade is controlled."

Blog
Kenneth Page's picture

Global problems require global solutions. One of the significant emerging threats to human rights and democracy today is the incredible and mostly unaccountable spread of surveillance technologies.

Press release

World leaders must commit to keeping invasive surveillance systems and technologies out of the hands of dictators and oppressive regimes, said a new global coalition of human rights organizations as it launched today in Brussels.

The Coalition Against Unlawful Surveillance Exports (CAUSE) – which includes Amnesty International, Digitale Gesellschaft, FIDH, Human Rights Watch, the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute, Privacy International, and Reporters without Borders – aims to hold governments and private companies accountable for abuses linked to the US$5 billion and growing international trade in communication surveillance technologies. Governments are increasingly using spying software, equipment, and related tools to violate the right to privacy and a host of other human rights.

In the media
Publisher: 
The Associated Press
Publication date: 
04-Apr-2014
Original story link: 

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and London-based Privacy International are among those hoping to check the export of powerful spyware to unsavory governments.

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