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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: 
Wired Italy
Publication date: 
03-Mar-2014
Author(s): 
Carola Frediani
Original story link: 

Hacking Team ancora nel mirino degli attivisti per i diritti digitali. A pochi giorni di distanza dal rapporto di Citizen Lab (dato in anteprima su Wired.it) che mappava l’infrastruttura nascosta di server governativi che utilizzerebbero il software dell’azienda milanese per intercettare tutte le comunicazioni dei loro target, arriva ora una campagna lanciata da Privacy International. Quest’ultima è una nota Ong internazionale, con sede in Gran Bretagna, da tempo impegnata a difendere la privacy dei cittadini dall’ingerenza di Stati e dall’industria globale della sorveglianza (di alcune aziende italiane del settore abbiamo scritto qui).

Countries: 
In the media
Publisher: 
SC Magazine
Publication date: 
03-Mar-2014
Author(s): 
Doug Drinkwater
Original story link: 

The Don't Spy On Us Campaign, a coalition between UK and international civil liberties groups – including Privacy International and Big Brother Watched, welcomed the talk.

“The Don't Spy on Us campaign welcomes the speech by Labour's Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper and her calls for reform of the oversight and legal frameworks for surveillance," the group wrote on its website. "She is right to contrast the strength of the political debate in the US with the very muted reaction here in the UK, even though GCHQ has engaged in the very same mass population surveillance as the NSA.

Countries: 
In the media
Publisher: 
Vice Motherboard
Publication date: 
27-Feb-2014
Author(s): 
Joseph Cox
Original story link: 

When it comes to new technologies such as facial recognition, there really are no meaningful protections in place. Carly Nyst from Privacy International agrees: “Without clear and strict regulation of the use of facial recognition and fingerprint technology, it is very difficult to ensure that individuals' privacy will be protected,” she told me.

Nyst was also worried about “mission creep,” where we could see “the use of such technologies away from serious crime detection, and instead towards basic policing (using it to track down traffic rules violators, for example); use by local authorities (for parking tickets and other fines); and even use by taxation authorities to identify evaders.”

In the media
Publisher: 
Vice Motherboard
Publication date: 
24-Feb-2014
Author(s): 
Max Cherney
Original story link: 

“Conveniently for these companies,” said Edin Omanovic, a research officer with Privacy International, “the fact that they sell to government agencies who demand non-disclosure means that they can continue to operate under a shroud of secrecy away from public scrutiny and any form of real accountability.”

In the media
Publisher: 
Human IPO
Publication date: 
20-Feb-2014
Author(s): 
Chris Udemans
Original story link: 

Privacy International has lodged a criminal complaint to the United Kingdom’s (UK) National Cyber Crime Unit (NCCU) of the National Crime Agency for the allegedly unlawful interception of personal communications of an Ethiopian political refugee living in the UK.

In the media
Publisher: 
The Independent
Publication date: 
17-Feb-2014
Author(s): 
Ian Burrell
Original story link: 

The charity Privacy International has made a criminal complaint to the agency’s National Cyber Crime Unit following the detection of the surveillance software FinSpy on a computer belonging to Tadesse Kersmo, who fled to Britain from Ethiopia in 2009.

In the media
Publisher: 
Mashable
Publication date: 
24-Feb-2014
Author(s): 
Lorezeno Franceschi-Bicchierai
Original story link: 

Despite both companies denying a special relationship with each other, some including Eric King, head of research at advocacy group Privacy International, are skeptical of their claims.

King, who has investigated companies like Hacking Team, FinFisher and Vupen for years as part of his organization's Big Brother Inc. project, said he remembered attending two surveillance trade shows three years ago. During the conferences, Hacking Team's sales representatives referred to Vupen as a company that sold exploits that would work well with Hacking Team's products, he told Mashable. However, King emphasized that he isn't suggesting there are formal agreements between the companies.

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In the media
Publisher: 
IT News
Publication date: 
19-Feb-2014
Author(s): 
Juha Saarinen
Original story link: 

Tadesse Kersmo and lobby group Privacy International filed the complaint with the cyber crime unit of the UK National Crime Agency, asking it to investigate the allegedly illegal interception of communications through the use of a little-known malware used by governments around the world.

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: 
The Guardian
Publication date: 
19-Feb-2014
Author(s): 
Paul Owen
Original story link: 

Gus Hosein of lobby group Privacy International said, "Schedule 7 is a law intended to fight terrorism, and was not drafted to target people like David Miranda.In this instance however the government used it to seize the devices of journalists to intimidate the reporting of mass and unlawful surveillance practices of the British government. To equate journalism with espionage, as the government has, is truly shameful. Today the court endorsed the practice of arbitrary use of power — that anyone passing through the border, Briton or not, can be subjected to a search and their devices seized for whatever purpose the government sees fit".

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