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Stream: Opinion pieces

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.”

Opinion piece
Eric King's picture

The following is an excerpt from a Comment originally publihsed by The Guardian, written by Privacy International's Head of Research, Eric King:

As the global public reels from yet another Snowden revelation – this time, that the US and UK intelligence forces have hacked into and planted spyware on more than 50,000 computer networks worldwide – the hypocrisy of the US and British governments is brought into sharp relief. Less than four years ago Hillary Clinton, chastising China, declared that "countries or individuals that engage in cyber attacks should face consequences and international condemnation. In an interconnected world, an attack on one nation's networks can be an attack on all." Given what we now know to be the "Five Eyes" complete stranglehold on the world's internet infrastructure, how can we possibly reconcile repeated American appeals to internet freedom and condemnation of Chinese internet monitoring with US-sponsored network hacking?

Opinion piece
Carly Nyst's picture

The following is an excerpt from a Comment originally publihsed by The Guardian, written by Privacy International's Head of Advocacy, Carly Nyst:

From databases to mobile phone apps and SMS systems, GPS tracking and humanitarian drones to biometric registration, new technologies are rapidly becoming central to the delivery of humanitarian and development aid.

Refugees fleeing the Syrian conflict are having their irises scanned and their identity documents digitised. Nurses in Nigeria are using SMS systems to communicate HIV test results to health facilities. Cash is being delivered to those living in Kenya's slums through the M-Pesa mobile-phone banking system.

Opinion piece
Anna Crowe's picture

The following is an excerpt from a guest article which appeared on openDemocracy, written by Privacy International's Research Officer, Anna Crowe:

Humanitarian actors often forsake the right to privacy in favour of promoting programmes utilising phones to deliver services, either through a lack of understanding or wilful ignorance as to the risks involved.

It is clear that the massive uptake of mobile phones in developing countries has played a crucial role in the success of many development interventions over the past decade. As well as aiding communication, mobiles have given people access to a range of services and information and revolutionised information collection and recording in humanitarian disasters.

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.

Opinion piece
Carly Nyst's picture

The following is an excerpt from a guest article which appeared on openDemocracy, written by Privacy International's Head of Advocacy, Carly Nyst:

Forget blood diamonds. There's a new resource being mined and exploited in the developing world: data.

As development actors adopt new technologies at a rapid rate, data is fast becoming the development community's favourite cure-all. For its proponents, data has the potential to accelerate economic growth, catalyse innovation, and revolutionise the provision of development and humanitarian aid. 

Yet, much like other conflict resources, the data for development movement poses serious risks to the liberties of the same individuals who will purportedly benefit from its exploitation. By facilitating the generation, collection or analysis of information that is about individuals, 'data for development' may be enabling surveillance in the most insidious way.

For the full piece, please go here.
Opinion piece
Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan's picture

This is a excerpt from a piece, written by Privacy International partners Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan, which appears in the Fall issue of the World Policy Journal:

In March 2013, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security at the U.S. State Department issued a warning for Americans wanting to come to the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia next February: Beware of SORM. The System of Operative-Investigative Measures, or SORM, is Russia’s national system of lawful interception of all electronic utterances—an Orwellian network that jeopardizes privacy and the ability to use telecommunications to oppose the government. The U.S. warning ends with a list of “Travel Cyber Security Best Practices,” which, apart from the new technology, resembles the briefing instructions for a Cold War-era spy:

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.

Opinion piece
Carly Nyst's picture

Below is an excerpt of an article that recently appeared in Melbourne, Australia's The Age, written by Carly Nyst, Head of International Advocacy at Privacy International:

"Mass surveillance of a country's citizens by its government can no longer be said to be the preserve of authoritarian and dictatorial states.

The publication last week by The Guardian of classified National Security Agency documents has exposed the extent of surveillance by the US government, throwing into question the security and privacy of the communications of people around the world.

Not only does the US government have carte blanche access to data collected by phone companies about every single phone communication conducted on American soil, but it also has a direct line into records kept by internet companies such as Google, Microsoft and Twitter. In short, the US has the ability to spy on citizens of almost every country across the globe.

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