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Privacy International has filed complaints against U.K. telecommunications companies for assisting British intelligence agency Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) with mass interception of telephone and Internet traffic that passes through undersea fiber optic cables.

The formal complaints were filed with the U.K. office of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which publishes guidelines for responsible business conduct followed by 44 governments including the U.K.

In the media
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Privacy International argued that while tech firms such as Google, Facebook and Yahoo have been able to prove their resistance to government access requests, BT, Level 3 and the other companies appear to have rolled over under pressure.

"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, emails, and personal data," said the group's head of research, Eric King.

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The group believes the companies may have violated a number of OECD guidelines on human rights, including the right to privacy and freedom of expression, by giving GCHQ access to their fibre-optic cables. It had already written to the providers, but received no response.

Privacy International now wants a formal investigation, and for the companies to come clean about how they collaborated with GCHQ on snooping programmes, like the cable tapping Tempora project.

In the media
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Yesterday Privacy International filed complaints with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) against some of the world's leading telecommunication companies for providing assistance to GCHQ's Tempora programme. The group believes up to a dozen OECD guidelines, relating to companies' responsibilities to respect human rights, including the right to privacy and freedom of expression, may have been violated.

In the media
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“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.

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Privacy International Chair Anna Fielder speaks with BBC Newsnight about Tesco's plans to implement face-scanning technology in their stores.

Press release
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Privacy International today has filed formal complaints with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in the UK against some of the world’s leading telecommunication companies, for providing assistance to British spy agency GCHQ in the mass interception of internet and telephone traffic passing through undersea fibre optic cables.

Press release
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Privacy International welcomes the resolution introduced on Friday by Germany and Brazil to the UN General Assembly, affirming the international human right to privacy and its essential nature to the realization of other rights, and condemning mass State surveillance of individuals around the world.

In the media
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Alexandrine Pirlot of Privacy International said big data can be discriminatory and exclusionary. “The data collected is from people who are active on the Internet but it excludes the ones that don’t take part in these activities, whose behavior, decisions and needs are completely excluded from decision-making processes in big data programs,” she said.

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Gus Hosein, executive director of London-based Privacy International, an advocacy group campaigning for privacy rights, told Bloomberg BNA Oct. 18 that the court had “narrowly interpreted” EU law, and there was potential for challenges against the taking of fingerprints for inclusion in passports to be brought before the European Court of Human Rights. The court ruling was the “perpetuation of a stupid mistake” made by the European Parliament when it approved the collection of fingerprints for passports, Hosein said.

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Gus Hosein of the Privacy International campaign group says the revelations about Merkel’s mobile have made tougher restrictions on transatlantic data flows more likely. “Now that the heads of state from across Europe are targets for the National Security Agency, they’re going to start taking this matter a hell of a lot more seriously,” Hosein says.  

In the media
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Under Britain's Regulatory and Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) of 2000, the government does have broad powers to conduct digital surveillance. However, many believe that this wholesale data sharing is outside the scope of targeted warrants as described under RIPA. In July 2013, Privacy International, a London-based advocacy group, sued the British government for alleged abuses under the law.

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Privacy International said Rifkind did not appear to be carrying out an independent review. “The credibility of the ISC will continue to decline while the chair of the committee, Sir Malcom Rifkind, acts as the government’s first line of defence, rather than objectively scrutinizing the facts,” said Eric King, head of research at Privacy International.

In the media
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Nineteen civil rights groups have banded together to press the European Parliament into a privacy protection vote on Monday at the "Civil Liberties" committee (LIBE). The group includes just about every well known group in the privacy protecting portfolio, and European Digital Rights (EDRi) is found rubbing shoulders with the Chaos Computer Club, Privacy International and Big Brother Watch.

In the media
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Le fait que ces bases de données existent ouvre les possibilités qu’elles puissent être utilisées de manière illégale, si la finalité de leur utilisation n’était pas celle spécifiée au moment de leur prise » a indiqué Alexandrine Pirlot de Corbion de Privacy international, fondé en 1990.

Blog
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It was a strangely quiet summer. Beyond the Guardian's reporting of the Edward Snowden leaks and an appearance of William Hague before Parliament, there has been little uproar from the establishment about the extensive surveillance regime operated by the NSA and GCHQ.

In the media
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Eric King, head of research at Privacy International, said there were real fears in the legal profession about confidentiality being breached by the security services following the NSA revelations. "We are astonishingly concerned about privileged communications being swept up as part of the mass surveillance programmes we have learned about over the past few months," he said.

In the media
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Not everyone is convinced though. Facebook has gone to great pains to describe how it will be better for everyone if this function is ousted, and that this announcement is really just for the benefit of "the small percentage of people still using the setting". But Mike Rispoli, spokesperson for Privacy International, suggests it is undermining a large chunk of its userbase with that thinking.

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Human rights group Privacy International told the Guardian that it makes Skype's previous claims look suspect. "The only people who lose are users," said Eric King, head of research at Privacy International. "Skype promoted itself as a fantastic tool for secure communications around the world, but quickly caved to government pressure and can no longer be trusted to protect user privacy."

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"The only people who lose are users," says Eric King, head of research at human rights group Privacy International. "Skype promoted itself as a fantastic tool for secure communications around the world, but quickly caved to government pressure and can no longer be trusted to protect user privacy."

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Eric King, head of research at Privacy International: "Our intelligence agencies carry out some of the most sensitive and legally complex work in the world. It is shameful that the agreements between the NSA and GCHQ are shrouded in secrecy and this practice must come to an end."

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Eric King, head of research at Privacy International, said: "Andrew Parker is right: the UK isn't East Germany. While the Stasi had files on one in three East Germans, the communications of almost everybody in the UK are being intercepted and stored as part of GCHQ's Tempora programme. Our security agencies' continued insistence that they are not prying, while every week new mass surveillance programmes are being revealed, is offensive to the public's intelligence."

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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."

In the media
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 Mike Rispoli of the London-based, nonprofit organization Privacy International said that such a complaint could be a good thing, since it would raise awareness of the issue with data protection agencies.

"When Yahoo announced this, experts warned about and predicted serious security and privacy issues. Yahoo downplayed these risks, and ignored these critics, but now we see these concerns were legitimate," Rispoli said.

In the media
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"Monsieur le président, je vous écris une lettre..." chantait Boris Vian dans sa chanson antimilitariste de 1954. Le 26 septembre, c'est une ONG qui milite pour la défense des droits de l'homme qui écrit une lettre à Ueli Maurer, conseiller fédéral. Privacy International interpelle le ministre de la Défense pour lui demander de ne pas accorder de licence à la multinationale Gamma qui tente d'exporter ses logiciels espions depuis la Suisse. L'ONG l'accuse de travailler pour des régimes autoritaires et de violer ainsi les droits de l'homme.

In the media
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 "We have no set of rules for this yet – there is no convention on what happens and what can be done," Sam Smith from privacy-rights organisation Privacy International told me. "Can the police technically force you to unlock your phone if it’s fingerprinted? The police would argue that they can, but they don't get to unilaterally make the rules."

In the media
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However, again there has been concerns about how this particular platform operates, with executive director of Privacy International Gus Hosein saying US-Visit “still has no clear understanding of how it’s supposed to work”, citing the decision to “collect fingerprints on the way in but not on the way out” as an example of the inconsistencies within the system.

In the media
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"These problems were flagged by security and privacy experts a few months ago when Yahoo announced their intention to recycle old emails, and cautioned that Yahoo's plan created significant security and privacy risks. Yahoo downplayed these risks, and ignored critics, but now we see these concerns were legitimate," said Mike Rispoli, spokesman for Privacy International.

In the media
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Les représentants de JONCTION, Privacy International, Electronic Frontier Fondation, Access, Human Rights Watch, Reporters sans frontières, l'Association pour le progrès des communications, et le Center for Democracy and Technology ont tous participé à l'événement.

Event
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On 29 November at the Universidad de San Andrés in Buenos Aires, Privacy International along with our local partners at Privacy LatAm will be hosting a conference, Data Protection in Latin America: The Next Decade. The program will cover government surveillance and data protection, focusing on data protection agencies in Latin America, international data flows and regulations in Latin America, the right to be forgotten, and cloud computing in the region.

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