Today we launch the public consultation process for the International Principles on Communications Surveillance and Human Rights. From now until January 3rd, we are inviting comments and suggestions on the draft principles.
Gus Hosein, executive director of Privacy International, described the prevalence of third-party tracking cookies as “mission creep”.
“These companies claim that the profiles they are building of online shoppers are anonymous, but the amount and variety of data collected is so large that our digital profiles can usually be easily linked to our real identities,” he said.
There have been two rounds of meetings in 2012 of the OECD Committee for Information, Computer and Communications Policy (ICCP ) and some of its working parties – in May and October 2012, with further meeting of two working parties in December. A ‘foresight forum’ on the ‘big data’ theme was held on 22 October. Civil society interest in the ICCP work programme is formalised through the Civil Society Information Society Advisory Council (CSISAC).
Last month, US District Judge William Griesbach ruled that police can lawfully install covert digital surveillance cameras on private property without a warrant.
One of the first things that strikes you about the chaotic East African metropolises of Kenya, Uganda and Zimbabwe is the blanket of adverts for mobile phone companies that covers them, from the walls of the immigration hall at Harare airport, to the rickety shacks that line the dusty streets of Kampala. Where official signage is unavailable, DIY versions are painted onto the roofs and walls of houses and small businesses.
Communications surveillance is one of the most significant threats to personal privacy posed by the state. This is why many statements of fundamental rights across the world give special regard to the privacy of communications. For example, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states in Article 12:
No one should be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks on his honour or reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interferences or attacks.
Privacy International asked lawyers, activists, researchers and hackers at Defcon 2012 about some of the debates that thrive at the intersection between law, technology and privacy. We also wanted to know why privacy matters to them, and what they thought the future of privacy looked like. This video is a result of those conversations.
Large institutions tend to focus internally, with minimal regard to the external environment. Open Data becoming institutionalised is not different, and as a leading edge country in opening data, the UK is making the predictable mistakes first:
Also in July, London-based Privacy International, which monitors surveillance abuses, informed the British government it planned to file a lawsuit to force regulation of surveillance technology sales, including those of FinFisher.
The next month, following the disclosures that the software had targeted dissidents, the U.K. government informed Gamma it must obtain export licenses to sell FinSpy outside the European Union.
Let's be clear: the Open Data movement is not about the pursuit of complete and unconditional openness. We know that it would be unwise to publish details of police patrol patterns, or the combination to the safe containing the crown jewels. We believe that fundamental reference data like ordnance survey maps, transport timetables, and company information should be freely available to all - information about objects, rather than information about people.
Equally vivid is this 2007 chart from Privacy International, a group that monitors the surveillance policies of nations around the world. Each color represents the level of the nation's privacy and surveillance policies, with black being the most invasive and abusive ("Endemic Surveillance Societies") and blue being the least ("Consistently upholds human rights standards").
We all remember the characteristics of the people we went to school with. In primary school, George was excellent at Music; Michelle aced Science in high school; Julian did that odd combination of college courses and had a problem with authority. Well, there's a national database that records all this information and more. The National Pupil Database (NPD, previously the School Census) contains over 400 variables, covers every year of a child’s education from nursery to A-levels, and anyone who attended a state school in the past ten years is included - there is no opt out.
The UK Minister for Education, Michael Gove, today stated in Parliament that he would be moving forward his plans to open up the National Pupil Database, and announced a government consultation on the initiative. The Minister promised that "all requests to access extracts of data would go through a robust approval process and successful organisations would be subject to strict terms and conditions covering their handling and use of the data, including ha
On the surface, it’s all about protecting Russian kids from internet pedophiles. In reality, the Kremlin’s new “Single Register” of banned websites, which goes into effect today, will wind up blocking all kinds of online political speech. And, thanks to the spread of new internet-monitoring technologies, the Register could well become a tool for spying on millions of Russians.
Modern information and communications technologies are now seamlessly integrated into our daily lives. Internet-based communications are no longer a luxury, but rather a necessity, for people across the globe. This is particularly the case in developing countries where, as well as helping individuals communicate, learn and connect, technologies play a vital role in advancing fundamental human rights and fuelling social progress.
Today, travelling within many cities around the world comes at a cost: privacy.
Electronic ticketing systems are proliferating, but it’s not clear how much information they collect or what they do with it. Privacy International has written to 48 transport authorities and companies operating transport services across the world requesting this data.
From a smart phone police can tell where we have been, who we have been in contact with and what we are planning to do. As Eric King, head of research at Privacy International, points out: “There is more information on your phone than there would have been in the average home 20 years ago. But whereas the police still need a search warrant to enter a house, they can now grab all the data from your phone with no independent authorisation.”
Tuesday’s letter to Google CEO Larry Page, personally signed by 29 European data protection authorities, ordered the corporation (inter alia) to give users greater control over their personal information. The notions of trust and control are emphasised throughout the letter, and Google is urged to "…develop new tools to give users more control over their personal data" and "collect explicit consent for the combination of data for certain purposes".
Privacy International, Agentura.Ru, the Russian secret services watchdog, and Citizen Lab have joined forces to launch a new project entitled 'Russia’s Surveillance State'. The aims of the project are to undertake research and investigation into surveillance practices in Russia, including the trade in and use of surveillance technologies, and to publicise research and investigative findings to improve national and international awareness of surveillance and secrecy practices in Russia.
Greek newspaper To Vima reported late last night that Golden Dawn MP Ilias Panagiotaros has requested the exact data of "foreign infants and young children, by country of origin, who are in nursery schools" in Greece from the Greek Ministry of Interior (the equivalent of the British Home Office or US State Department). To Vima’s headline read 'Taking a leaf out of Herod’s book'.
But campaigners warned that the new generation of drones could have profound consequences for civil liberties. "With the use of drones in European airspace spiralling, we urgently need greater clarity and transparency about when and how these tools are deployed," said Eric King of Privacy International.
"Not too long ago, this was the stuff of science fiction, but flying robotic devices equipped with facial recognition technology and mobile phone interception kit are increasingly commonplace.
APEC privacy activity has passed another milestone with the acceptance in July 2012 of the USA as the first economy to formally join the cross border privacy rules (CBPR) system. The CBPR Joint Oversight Panel (JOP), with the Canadian chair of the Data Privacy Subgroup (DPS) standing in for the US member in accordance with the ‘no conflict of interest’ provisions, accepted the US government application, which nominated the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) as the privacy enforcement authority and the FTC Act (15 USC 45) as the privacy law required by the CBPR protocols.
Yet as the British NGO Privacy International wrote earlier in the year about the CCDP: "In a terrorism investigation, the police will already have access to all the data they could want. This is about other investigations."
Last Friday, the German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle added his voice to calls for tighter control of EU surveillance technology exports, bolstering the momentum of a growing pan-European movement.
Speaking in Berlin at an Internet and Human Rights conference hosted by the German Foreign Office, Westerwelle described the devastating effect that surveillance technology can have on fledgling democratic and civil rights movements:
On 25th January 2012, the European Commission published a proposal that would comprehensively reform the European data protection legal regime. One aspect of its proposal, a new Regulation (the “Proposed Regulation”),1 would modernise and further harmonise the data protection regime created by the Data Protection Directive (95/46/EC).
For some companies in the west, selling surveillance technologies is a lucrative business: technologies that allow you to spy on computers and monitor the users. "Western countries are not limiting that trade. They are not putting any restrictions on what technology can go where. And that is a huge problem," warned Eric King of Privacy International, an NGO that is trying to monitor the export of surveillance technology.
On 25th January 2012, the European Commission published a proposal that would comprehensively reform the European data protection legal regime. One aspect of the proposal, a new Regulation (the “Proposed Regulation”),1 would modernise and further harmonise the data protection regime created by the Data Protection Directive (95/46/EC).
A year ago this week, the UK government published a report entitled 'Transparent Government, Not Transparent Citizens', authored by Dr Kieron O’Hara. It made fourteen recommendations, the most important of which seem not to have been implemented. Meanwhile, the government continues to release data on citizens, and is accelerating these disclosures with some ambitious new policies.