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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

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.

In the media
Publisher: 
Guardian
Publication date: 
07-Oct-2013
Author(s): 
Shaun Walker
Original story link: 

Gus Hosein, executive director of Privacy International, which also co-operated with the research, said: "Since 2008, more people are travelling with smartphones with far more data than back then, so there is more to spy on."

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: 
Blog
Matthew Rice's picture

The government of Pakistan has repeatedly shown it is relentless when it comes to deploying measures to censor and spy on its own citizens. Today, a report released by Citizen Lab reveals another repressive tool being used to control and prevent information being accessed on the internet -- this time with help from the Canadian web-filtering company, Netsweeper.

According to the report "O Pakistan, We Stand on Guard for Thee: An Analysis of Canada-based Netsweeper’s Role in Pakistan’s Censorship Regime", internet filtering software provided by Netsweeper has been installed on the Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL)'s network, the country's largest telecommunications company that also operates the Pakistan Internet Exchange Point. Citizen Lab's report shows that the technology has been used for the purposes of social and political filtering, including websites of secessionist movements, sensitive religious topics, and independent media. 

In the media
Publisher: 
The Atlantic
Publication date: 
11-Jun-2013
Author(s): 
Olga Khazan
Original story link: 

"There is spy technology that we see on James Bond movies that we know have been bought by Germany, the Netherlands, and elsewhere, and we know that it's being used," said Carly Nyst, head of international advocacy at Privacy International.

In the media
Publisher: 
Slate
Publication date: 
06-Jun-2013
Author(s): 
Ryan Gallagher
Original story link: 

The rights group Privacy International heralded the report as a “landmark” piece of work. “The report marks the first time the U.N. has emphasised the centrality of the right to privacy to democratic principles and the free flow of speech and ideas,” it said. “[It] breaks a tradition long-held by U.N. human rights mechanisms to remain relatively silent on state surveillance.”

Blog
Carly Nyst's picture

In a landmark report, the United Nations today has broken its long-held silence about the threat that State surveillance poses to the enjoyment of the right to privacy.

The report is clear: State surveillance of communications is ubiquitous, and such surveillance severely undermines citizens’ ability to enjoy a private life, freely express themselves and enjoy their other fundamental human rights. Presented today at the UN Human Rights Council session in Geneva, the report marks the first time the UN has emphasised the centrality of the right to privacy to democratic principles and the free flow of speech and ideas.

Blog
Alinda Vermeer's picture

After a successful investigation by the US government into the illegal reselling of over a million dollars worth of surveillance equipment to the Syrian regime, Dubai distribution company Computerlinks FZCO has agreed to pay the maximum civil penalty of $2.8 million.

Computerlinks, in three separate transactions between October 2010 and May 2011, sold $1.4 million worth of devices developed by California-based Blue Coat to the state-run Syrian Telecommunications Establishment, which controls the country's access to the Internet, according to the US Bureau of Industry and and Security, the US agency in charge of export controls. Computerlinks also provided support "to help the end user of the devices to monitor the web activities of individual internet users and prevent users from navigating around censorship controls". 

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