Privacy International defends the right to privacy across the world, and fights surveillance and other intrusions into private life by governments and corporations. Read more »


Issue

Freedom of Expression

Freedom of expression and privacy are two sides of the same coin – and we need both for full participation in democratic society. Surveillance techniques that prevent individuals remaining anonymous when producing or accessing information both infringe privacy and have a chilling effect on free expression.

Building an unfettered public debate requires a private sphere in which citizens can express themselves without intervention or interference. The increasing importance of Internet communications for those living under repressive regimes has served to highlight the fundamental dependence of free expression upon information security. Privacy is also vital to the protection of journalistic integrity; when journalists' privacy is routinely undermined, whistleblowers and other anonymous sources will refrain from sharing information about wrongdoing and corruption because they fear for their livelihoods or their lives.

The right to protection of sources is well recognized in international law. The United Nations, the Council of Europe, the Organisation of American States, the African Union, and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, have specifically guaranteed it. The European Court of Human Rights has found in several cases that privacy is an essential part of freedom of expression.

We campaign around the world on the protection of free expression through the protection of privacy. We have conducted global studies on censorship practices and on the protection of journalistic sources, and critically assessed technologies and laws that promote censorship and place individuals under surveillance in order to chill their rights to free expression.

Freedom of Expression

Blog
Emily Linnea Mahoney's picture

In the late eighteenth century in Germany, ‘anthropologist’ Johann Blumenbach published a degenerative hypothesis that linked cranium and facial profiles to supposed character traits and accordingly divided human beings into five different races: the Caucasian, Mongolian, Malayan, Ethiopian, and American.1

In the 1870s, Alphonse Bertillon, a police officer in France, started a trend to identify criminals based on facial characteristics, alongside subsequent use of the camera to photograph and identify repeat offenders.

In the 1930s in Nazi Germany, IBM computer scientists devised an identification system in aid of the Third Reich’s attempt to systematically decimate entire populations.2

Blog
Caroline Wilson Palow's picture

Privacy International's partner organisation, Bytes for All, has filed a complaint against the Government, decrying the human rights violations inherent in such extensive surveillance and demonstrating how the UK's mass surveillance operations and its policies have a disproportionate impact on those who live outside the country.

Bytes for All, a Pakistan-based human rights organization, filed its complaint in the UK Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), the same venue in which Privacy International lodged a similar complaint last July.

Blog
Anna Crowe's picture

The following piece originally appeared on Linda Raftree's "Wait...What" blog, a site focusing on bridging community development and technology.

New technologies hold great potential for the developing world, and countless development scholars and practitioners have sung the praises of technology in accelerating development, reducing poverty, spurring innovation and improving accountability and transparency.

Worryingly, however, privacy is presented as a luxury that creates barriers to development, rather than a key aspect to sustainable development. This perspective needs to change.

Opinion piece
Carly Nyst's picture

The following was a speech given by Carly Nyst, Head International Adovacy, at the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights, Geneva on 3 December

The internet and innovations in technologies have opened up previously unimagined possibilities for communication, expression, and empowerment. New technologies have become essential enablers of the enjoyment of human rights, from the right to education, to participation, to access to information. Today, the internet is not only a place where rights are exercised, it is in itself a guarantor of human rights.

At the same time, changes in technologies have given rise to increased opportunities for State interferences with human rights, particularly the rights to privacy and free expression. Even the world’s most longstanding democratic States have obtained the technical capacity to conduct country-wide internet monitoring, tracking and surveillance. Today, as the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression observed in his report presented to the Human Rights Council in June 2013, “the State now has a greater capability to conduct simultaneous, invasive, targeted and broad-scale surveillance than ever before.”

Blog
Matthew Rice's picture

Privacy International is pleased to announce the Surveillance Industry Index, the most comprehensive publicly available database on the private surveillance sector.

Over the last four years, Privacy International has been gathering information from various sources that details how the sector sells its technologies, what the technologies are capable of and in some cases, which governments a technology has been sold to. Through our collection of materials and brochures at surveillance trade shows around the world, and by incorporating certain information provided by Wikileaks and Omega Research Foundation, this collection of documents represents the largest single index on the private surveillance sector ever assembled. All told, there are 1,203 documents detailing 97 surveillance technologies contained within the database. The Index features 338 companies that develop these technologies in 36 countries around the world.

In the media
Publisher: 
Tech World
Publication date: 
05-Nov-2013
Author(s): 
John E Dunn
Original story link: 

“We call on these companies to do the right thing and halt their involvement with mass surveillance and hope the OECD will investigate what steps, if any, the companies took to defend the human rights of their customers," said King.

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

“With each passing day, the public finds out more and more how private companies are colluding with governments to operate mass surveillance programs that intercept our daily phone calls, text messages, e-mails, and personal data,” said Eric King of Privacy International in a statement.

Blog
Alexandrine Pirlot's picture

As anticipated, the Snowden revelations – first referred to in the opening session as the “elephant in the room” – soon became the central focus of many of the 150 workshops that took place during the 8th Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Bali, and dominated the bilateral meetings that took place between governments, the private sector, the tech community, and civil society.

The various stakeholders arrived at the IGF ready to pursue their own agendas. The U.S. came to try and restore its image as a concerned protector of human rights of Internet users; China, to seize the opportunity to portray itself as a support of citizen’s rights in face of mass foreign surveillance programmes of Western democracies; and Brazil used the IGF to reaffirm its leadership for a multi-stakeholder approach which would respect human rights and challenge unethical illegal mass surveillance.

Opinion piece
Carly Nyst's picture

The following is an excerpt from an article written that originally was published by IFEX, and is written by Carly Nyst, Head of International Advocacy at Privacy International:

The reality of the modern world is that governments – both of our own countries, and of foreign states – have greater capabilities to carry out invasive surveillance of citizens, no matter where they reside or what flag they pledge to. And caught in the cross-fire of the expanding surveillance state is freedom of expression, which is underpinned by the right to privacy.

For a long time there have been legitimate fears of a pervasive surveillance state, and those fears continue to be confirmed by the Edward Snowden leaks, which week after week provide a progressively more terrifying glimpse into international spying regimes. It is now clear that the US and UK governments perceive broad-scale and real-time surveillance, once the reserve of repressive regimes, to be a legitimate tool of democratic states.

Opinion piece
Carly Nyst's picture

The following is an English version of an article in the September issue of Cuestión de Derechos, written by Privacy International's Head of International Advocacy, Carly Nyst.

To read the whole article (in Spanish), please go here.

The Chinese government installs software that monitors and censors certain anti-government websites. Journalists and human rights defenders from Bahrain to Morocco have their phones tapped and their emails read by security services. Facebook takes down wall posts after States complains of “subversive material”. Google hands over user data to law enforcement authorities that includes IP addresses, location data and records of communications. The US government conducts mass surveillance of foreign phone and internet users.

Pages

Subscribe to Freedom of Expression