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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: 
Associated Press
Publication date: 
18-Feb-2014
Author(s): 
Raphael Satter
Original story link: 

Speaking at a news conference organized by London-based Privacy International, Kersmo said Monday that he thought he was safe from snooping when he left Ethiopia for the United Kingdom in 2009.

In the media
Publisher: 
The Intercept
Publication date: 
18-Feb-2014
Author(s): 
Glenn Greenwald and Ryan Gallagher
Original story link: 

But privacy advocates question such assurances. “How could targeting an entire website’s user base be necessary or proportionate?” says Gus Hosein, executive director of the London-based human rights group Privacy International. “These are innocent people who are turned into suspects based on their reading habits. Surely becoming a target of a state’s intelligence and security apparatus should require more than a mere click on a link.”

Countries: 
In the media
Publisher: 
Computer Weekly
Publication date: 
07-Feb-2014
Author(s): 
Warwick Ashford
Original story link: 

Liberty, Big Brother Watch and Privacy International have described the inquiry as “deeply flawed” in an open letter to the ISC with copies to the prime minister and his deputy.

Countries: 
In the media
Publisher: 
BBC World Service
Publication date: 
28-Feb-2014
Original story link: 

Gus Hosein and Anna Crowe speak with BBC World Service on the past, and future, of privacy.

Countries: 
In the media
Publisher: 
Wired UK
Publication date: 
14-Feb-2014
Author(s): 
Katie Collins
Original story link: 

"While the IPT has a history of siding with Government, today the Tribunal expressed well-founded scepticism of several of the government's positions, which were built upon continued refusals to acknowledge the existence of the Tempora programme, despite the reams of material to the contrary that are now in the public domain.

"The Government's continuing insistence on neither confirming nor denying Tempora borders on the absurd and blocks us from having a full and robust debate about whether such mass surveillance is lawful."

Countries: 
In the media
Publisher: 
The Guardian
Publication date: 
14-Feb-2014
Author(s): 
Owen Bowcott
Original story link: 

Privacy International said : "All internet and telephone communications, without meaningful limits, are being collected, stored and analysed by the security and intelligence services, regardless of any grounds for suspicion. This raises important issues of law and principle."

Countries: 
Blog
Kenneth Page's picture

Only a few days after it was reported that intrusive surveillance technology developed and sold by Italian surveillance company Hacking Team was found in some of the most repressive countries in the world, Privacy International has uncovered evidence which suggests the company has received over €1 million in public financing.

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.

Blog
Dr Richard Tynan's picture

The 'GSOC saga' began a number of weeks ago with the revelation that the oversight body of the Irish police force, the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission (GSOC), may have been the target of sophisticated electronic surveillance. A security company, Verrimus, found that there was evidence that an IMSI Catcher device may have been deployed in the vicinity of GSOC's offices which could have intercepted all mobile phone communications of its officers and anyone visiting the offices.

Blog
Dr Gus Hosein's picture

In Geneva this week, an expert seminar will be held at the Human Rights Council on the right to privacy. To inform these discussions and debates, Privacy International is releasing our report, The State of Privacy 2014, which identifies recent accomplishments from around the world, and highlights significant challenges ahead for this right.

To read the full report, go here.

Promoting and defending the right to privacy in national and international policy discourses is always an interesting challenge. The right to privacy is fundamental to who we are as human beings, insulating our most intimate and personal thoughts and deeds, and acts as a critical safeguard against abuse and overreach by pow- erful institutions. It is perhaps for these reasons that the right has for so long been under attack by governments.

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