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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
Kenneth Page's picture

Through our Big Brother Incorporated project, Privacy International over the past two years has been campaigning against the export of surveillance technologies by Western companies to repressive regimes. One of the seminal moments of this campaign was in 2011, when we partnered with Wikileaks to release the SpyFiles, which catalogued hundreds of brochures, presentations, marketing videos, and technical specifications exposing the inner workings of the international trade in surveillance technologies.

In the media
Publisher: 
Wired UK
Publication date: 
04-Sep-2013
Author(s): 
Katie Collins
Original story link: 

"The biggest problem which we've seen in the region is that the legislation is very weak with little to no judicial oversight," Michael Rispoli from Privacy International tells Wired.co.uk.

Countries: 
In the media
Publisher: 
Deutsche Welle
Publication date: 
03-Sep-2013
Author(s): 
Michael Knigge
Original story link: 

Compared to what we have recently learnt about US and UK services, European intelligence agencies still operate in total darkness, says Eric King, head of research at London-based Privacy International. "And I think that that in itself is a significant problem."

In the media
Publisher: 
International Business Times
Publication date: 
28-Aug-2013
Author(s): 
Alfred Joyner
Original story link: 

Privacy International, a London-based charity which is concerned about Dr Shehabi's safety and the sale of the Finfisher software to intolerant regimes, has now filed a complaint against British HM revenue & customs.

"We recently filed for judicial review of HMRC's refusal to disclose any information to us on whether or not they are investigating a company called Gamma International. Gamma International is a UK company that has developed and is selling a product called FinFisher. FinFisher is malicious software that once it's installed on your computer or mobile phone your every movement online can be tracked," explained Alinda Vermeer, legal advisor at Privacy International.

In the media
Publisher: 
WIred
Publication date: 
28-Aug-2013
Author(s): 
David Kravets
Original story link: 

But whether they have any meaning is open for debate following the disclosures by NSA leaker Edward Snowden. That’s because the government has direct access to the internet and scoops up millions of communications annually.

“We are now aware of a terrifying reality — that governments don’t necessarily need intermediaries like Facebook, Google, and Microsoft to get our data. They can intercept it over undersea cables, through secret court orders, and through intelligence sharing,” Privacy International said in a statement.

In the media
Publisher: 
BBC
Publication date: 
27-Aug-2013
Author(s): 
David Lee
Original story link: 

Rights group Privacy International welcomed the publication but had wider concerns.

"Given Facebook's ever-growing presence in the lives of people around the world, we commend them for releasing this report today - a release that has been a long time coming," it said.

"However, we are left with a disturbingly hollow feeling regarding Facebook's gesture, and it has little to do with Facebook itself.

In the media
Publisher: 
All Facebook
Publication date: 
27-Aug-2013
Author(s): 
David Cohen
Original story link: 

Privacy International weighed in on the release of Facebook’s first Global Government Requests Report with the following statement...

"The usefulness of transparency reports hinges on governments abiding by the rule of law. We now know that these reports only provide a limited picture of what is going on, and it is time that governments allow companies to speak more freely regarding the orders they receive."

In the media
Publisher: 
Financial Times
Publication date: 
27-Aug-2013
Author(s): 
Tim Bradshaw
Original story link: 

Privacy International “commended” Facebook for the disclosure, which it said had been a “long time coming”, but noted that leaks from the US intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden suggested that governments were collecting user data from telecoms networks and other means that may not require web companies’ co-operation.

“The usefulness of transparency reports hinges on governments abiding by the rule of law,” Privacy International said.

“We now know that these reports only provide a limited picture of what is going on, and it is time that governments allow companies to speak more freely regarding the orders they receive.”

In the media
Publisher: 
Computer World
Publication date: 
27-Aug-2013
Author(s): 
Grant Gross
Original story link: 

Privacy International, a U.K.-based privacy group, applauded Facebook for releasing the numbers, but said recent leaks about data collection at the U.S. National Security Agency show that these kinds of transparency reports have limited use.

In the media
Publisher: 
San Francisco Chroncile
Publication date: 
27-Aug-2013
Author(s): 
Benny Evangelista
Original story link: 

While London privacy-rights organization Privacy International praised Facebook for releasing the data, it questioned whether such transparency reports are useful.

"We are left with a disturbingly hollow feeling regarding Facebook's gesture, and it has little to do with Facebook itself," the organization said.

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