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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: 
International Business Times
Publication date: 
27-Aug-2013
Author(s): 
Alistair Charlton
Original story link: 

The report was welcomed by Privacy International, but the human rights group said it was left feeling "disturbingly hollow" with regard to Facebook's gesture. The group said in a statement: "Since documents leaked by Edward Snowden have been published and analysed, the veil has been lifted on what information governments actually collect about us.

"We are now aware of a terrifying reality - that governments don't necessarily need intermediaries like Facebook, Google and Microsoft to get out data. They can intercept it over undersea cables, through secret court orders, and through intelligence sharing."

Privacy International added that the usefulness of such reports "hinges on governments abiding by the rule of the law," adding that it is now known that these reports "only provide a limited picture of what is going on".

Press release

Transparency reports have traditionally played a critical role in informing the public on the lawful access requests made by governments to companies like Facebook. These reports have provided a useful accountability mechanism for users to know what governments are asking for and how often. Transparency reports also inform users as to what intermediaries are doing to protect their privacy when it comes to sharing data with governments. 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.

Blog
Carly Nyst's picture

Privacy International will soon be launching a research and advocacy project entitled Aiding Surveillance that will focus on the role of international development, humanitarian and funding organisations in promoting privacy and data protection. Click here to join our mailing list to find out more about this project and all of PI's activities.

The development agenda is heralding a new cure-all for humanitarian and development challenges – data.

Blog
Caroline Wilson Palow's picture

The calculated detention, interrogation, and search of David Miranda brings into sharp relief the draconian legal frameworks that define security and policing in the United Kingdom. These events highlight not only the imperilled state of privacy rights and free expression in Britain, but the breakdown of the democratic institutions that should be protecting individuals not only from terrorists, but from unrestrained government power.

Miranda, the partner of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, was detained at Heathrow Airport on Sunday. He was subjected to almost nine hours of questioning for being associated with a writer and newspaper that has blown the lid off of the overreaching activities of Western intelligence agencies. Miranda also had several of his electronic devices seized, including his laptop, USB thumbdrives, mobile phone, camera, and gaming consoles.

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

“Many surveillance technologies are created and deployed with legitimate aims in mind, however the deploying of IMSI catchers sniffing mobile phones en masse is neither proportionate nor necessary for the stated aims of identifying stolen phones,” Eric King of Privacy International told Ars.

Countries: 
In the media
Publisher: 
The Guardian
Publication date: 
21-Aug-2013
Author(s): 
Charles Arthur
Original story link: 

Privacy International criticised the climate that had led to Jones's decision. "The closing of Groklaw demonstrates how central the right to privacy is to free expression. The mere threat of surveillance is enough to [make people] self-censor", it said in a statement.

Countries: 
In the media
Publisher: 
PC Pro
Publication date: 
20-Aug-2013
Author(s): 
Shona Ghosh
Original story link: 

Privacy International told PC Pro that Groklaw's closure was a "clear demonstration" of the chilling effect of undue surveillance. "The right to privacy is central to the democratic principles of the free flow of speech and ideas," said a spokesperson. "The mere threat of surveillance is enough for citizens to alter their behaviour and censor themselves."
 

Countries: 
In the media
Publisher: 
International Business Times
Publication date: 
09-Aug-2013
Author(s): 
Alistair Charlton
Original story link: 

Filed in the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), the claim challenges Whitehall along with BT, Vodafone Cable, Verizon Business, Global Crossing, Level 3, Viatel and Interoute, who were all recently identified as collaborating with GCHQ's Tempora mass surveillance programme.

Countries: 
In the media
Publisher: 
The Telegraph
Publication date: 
09-Aug-2013
Author(s): 
Sophie Curtis
Original story link: 

In particular, Privacy International asks the telcos to outline company policies for assessing the lawfulness of government requests, and describe any requests they received from authorities to intercept information, any steps taken to oppose or resist such orders, and the amount they have been paid for their cooperation with governments.

Countries: 
In the media
Publisher: 
ComputerWorld UK
Publication date: 
09-Aug-2013
Author(s): 
Antony Savvas
Original story link: 

"By complying with government requests, companies are unlawfully participating in mass and indiscriminate surveillance and are in breach of Article 8,” said Privacy International.

Countries: 

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