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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

Opinion piece
Carly Nyst's picture

The following excerpt is from a posting in the Guardian's Comment is Free by Carly Nyst, Privacy International's Head of International Advocacy.

"In order to challenge a secret surveillance system, and to demand the government explains why it is spying on British citizens, one must apply to a secret tribunal that does not make public its proceedings or the reasons for its decision. It may seem like an Orwellian fantasy, but this is the stark reality of the British legal system.

It's called the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), and it has exclusive jurisdiction over challenges to the clandestine surveillance programme being carried out by the government. Created in 2000 with the passing of the controversial Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, and operating outside of the public's knowledge, the secret tribunal is now in the spotlight with the Guardian's revelations of GCHQ's access to Prism as well as its own operation Tempora.

Press release

In the wake of revelations that the UK Government is accessing wide-ranging intelligence information from the US and is conducting mass surveillance on citizens across the UK, Privacy International today commenced legal action against the Government, charging that the expansive spying regime is seemingly operated outside of the rule of law, lacks any accountability, and is neither necessary nor proportionate.

Blog
Dr Richard Tynan's picture

All across the U.S. on 4 July, thousands of Americans gathered at Restore the Fourth rallies, in support of restoring the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and to protest the recently-disclosed information regarding NSA spying on American citizens. Demonstrations took place in over 100 cities, calling on the U.S. government to respect the privacy rights of citizens in America and individuals around the world.

Blast
Nigel Waters's picture

The following statement was made to the APEC Data Privacy Subgroup meeting on 24 June 2013, in Medan, Sumatra, by Nigel Waters, attending the meeting as an invited guest. At previous meetings Mr Waters has represented Privacy International, but due to difficulties in obtaining guest status for PI (or other privacy or consumer NGOs) he has attended the last two meetings in an individual capacity. In the absence of a formal multi-stakeholder mechanism, he seeks to bring the perspective of international civil society to bear in the APEC privacy work.

In the media
Publisher: 
BBC
Publication date: 
01-Jul-2013
Original story link: 

"Prism is the most egregious example of NSA overreach that we've seen in the last 10 years or so," Eric King, head of research at London-based campaign group Privacy International, told the BBC.

In the media
Publisher: 
Financial Times
Publication date: 
01-Jul-2013
Author(s): 
Chris Bryant
Original story link: 

Eric King, head of research at Privacy International, says: “Lawful interception can only happen when there is the rule of law. [The export of] arms, weapons, bulletproof vests – even flares – are controlled. But surveillance equipment is not. And in the wrong hands this technology is just a dangerous,” he says. “No government has taken anywhere close to the steps required to control it.”

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

"We welcome the court’s decision, and look forward to asking the court to force HMRC to make a fresh decision and disclose what steps, if any, they are taking to hold surveillance companies to account for potentially illegal exports,” said Eric King, head of research at Privacy International.

In the media
Publisher: 
Al Jazeera
Publication date: 
28-Jun-2013
Author(s): 
Simon Harper
Original story link: 

Gus Hosein, executive director at campaign group Privacy International, told Al Jazeera the UK ranked poorly in the democratic world in terms of the amount of intrusion it allowed, describing the government as "addicted" to new surveillance powers and technologies.

Countries: 
In the media
Publisher: 
New Scientist
Publication date: 
25-Jun-2013
Author(s): 
Paul Marks
Original story link: 

"It is astonishing access they are getting with Tempora," says Eric King, of pressure group Privacy International in London. "Every piece of data that leaves the UK, and every piece of international data that flows through the UK – which is 99 per cent of the world's communications – is available to them."

Countries: 
In the media
Publisher: 
Wired UK
Publication date: 
28-Jun-2013
Author(s): 
Paul Wright
Original story link: 

Surveillance operations often require a ministerial sign-off or permission from a superior but it is unclear whether targeting of public social media data requires the same level of oversight, as head of research at Privacy International Eric King point outs.

Countries: 

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