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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

In the media
Publisher: 
Deutsche Welle
Publication date: 
25-Mar-2014
Author(s): 
Ben Knight
Original story link: 

"This story is pretty frightening," Privacy International spokesman Mike Rispoli told DW. "It's extremely remarkable just from a technical standpoint that they have it." On top of this, given that MYSTIC was launched in 2009 and according to the Post "reached full capacity against the first target nation in 2011," we can only guess at the program's reach and power now. "This is news from a few years ago," Rispoli pointed out. "We don't know where they're at right now in terms of capacity."

Countries: 
In the media
Publisher: 
Muktware
Publication date: 
26-Mar-2014
Author(s): 
Sahil Kalloli
Original story link: 

According to Dr. Richard Tynan, technologist with Privacy International, “…without the ability of the security community to examine the baseband software of the new Ubuntu Phone, the open-source nature of the remaining element may provide no more assurances than other open-source phone operating systems such as Android.”

In the media
Publisher: 
Middle East Monitor
Publication date: 
25-Mar-2014
Author(s): 
Alastair Sloan
Original story link: 

Campaign groups such as Privacy International and Amnesty International are currently outspoken in their criticism of lax export controls on IT intrusion software, having expressed their concerns to Parliament repeatedly.

In the media
Publisher: 
Le Monde
Publication date: 
28-Mar-2014
Author(s): 
Louise Couvelaire
Original story link: 

"Aujourd'hui, il peut enregistrer les conversations téléphoniques, avoir accès aux textos... Ce qui n'était pas le cas il y a encore un an", fulmine Matthew Rice, de l'organisation à but non lucratif Privacy International, basée à Londres.

Countries: 
In the media
Publisher: 
Agora Vox
Publication date: 
05-Mar-2014
Author(s): 
Flaviano Tarducci
Original story link: 

 Privacy International, una ong che combatte per il diritto alla privacy, ha creato un database liberamente accessibile, dove sono elencate 338 aziende con sede nei Paesi occidentali che vendono tecnologie di sorveglianza a Paesi con regimi repressivi che intendono usarle come strumento di controllo politico. Matthew Rice di Privacy International spiega che le società di sorveglianza svolgono marketing e vendita delle più potenti, invasive e pericolose tecnologie di sorveglianza al mondo, mantenendo relazioni con i regimi repressivi ai quali hanno venduto i loro prodotti. Dal suddetto database risulta che nel milanese ci sono almeno 5 società coinvolte direttamente nella vendita di servizi di sorveglianza a governi autoritari: la RCS di Milano; la Digint di Garbagnate Milanese; la Spektra di Busto Arsizio; la Area di Vozzola Ticino e la Hacking Team di Milano.

Countries: 
In the media
Publisher: 
Zeit Online
Publication date: 
02-Mar-2014
Author(s): 
Jennifer Stange
Original story link: 

Laut Privacy International ist Deutschland nach den USA und Großbritannien der drittgrößte Exporteur dieser Technologie weltweit. Neben Asien wächst vor allem in den arabischen Staaten die Nachfrage.

In the media
Publisher: 
Network World
Publication date: 
24-Mar-2014
Author(s): 
Bryan Lunduke
Original story link: 

Richard Tynan, writing for PrivacyInternational.org, recently pointed out that the baseband – the firmware in a cellphone that does the actual "communicate with the cellular network" side of things – in Ubuntu-powered phones will remain closed source (and highly proprietary). ... This is, to say the least, a bummer. And Richard Tynan makes the point that this is a missed opportunity for Canonical to have required an Open Source baseband on the phones that ship with Ubuntu.

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 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.

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.

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