Imagine a secret government list of suspicions and allegations, fuelled by unsubstantiated rumours provided by anonymous citizens with undisclosed intentions. The information contained in the list would not be measured against any legal burden of proof or supported by any credible evidence, but would – simply by its existence – become “fact”. Imagine, then, if the government could rely upon such “facts” to identify and implicate individuals for illegal behaviour.
By now, UK internet users are probably familiar with major sites asking them to consent to the use of website cookies. This is prompted by the 'cookie law' (aka "Directive 2002/58 on Privacy and Electronic Communications", otherwise known as the E-Privacy Directive), which is proving a privacy trainwreck. Theoretically, the Directive was a good idea - a method of preventing companies secretly following a user from site to site across the web.
Drones are back in the headlines, with the news that the Ministry of Defence plans to develop unmanned underwater vehicles for use in submarine warfare. Human rights groups have already raised concerns over the UK’s use of airborne military drones, which have played a key role in UK operations in Afghanistan since 2008.
Hacking Team is a supplier of “lawful intercept” technology based in Milan. A regular attendee of surveillance industry conferences around the world, last year one of the company’s founding partners told the Guardian that Hacking Team had sold surveillance software to 30 countries across five continents.
Earlier this year, Privacy International began research into the corporate social responsibility policies of companies that sell communications surveillance technology. Given that this technology is known to facilitate human rights abuses in repressive regimes around the world, surveillance tech companies that claims corporate responsibility might be expected to address such concerns in their CSR policy documents.
As part of Privacy International's investigation into the mass surveillance industry we have examined hundreds of legal documents, brochures and, most recently, patents. Patents are a form of intellectual property; patent-holders publicly disclose their inventions in exchange for the exclusive rights to use and commercialise them for a limited period of time. Patent registries therefore provide a window into the otherwise murky world of the mass surveillance industry.
Governments have no automatic right of access to our communications. This will sound highly controversial to some, even downright radical. But the demands of national security and crime prevention do not, in fact, immediately trump every other right and responsibility in the complex relationship between citizen and state.
Last week’s revelation that Bahraini human rights activists have been targeted by advanced surveillance technology made by British company Gamma is yet another nail in the coffin of privacy and freedom of expression in Bahrain.
Update: The request was refused: I confirm that the Cabinet Office holds information relevant to your request. I must inform you that the Cabinet Office is withholding this information because it is exempt under the exemption at section 23(1) (Information supplied by, or relating to, bodies dealing with security matters and national security) of the Freedom of Information Act.
Emma Draper, head of communications at campaign group Privacy International, said Google should be "hugely embarrassed".
"The company's handling of the Street View episode has been a litany of disasters," she added.
"The fact that this latest one is the result of incompetence rather than deliberate misconduct will be of little comfort to Google users.
"The US Federal Trade Commission is going to come down hard on Google, and very few of their executives will deny that they deserve it."
Privacy International welcomes reports that the French Government has come out against the export of surveillance technology to oppressive regimes. According to the French website reflets.info, the State Secretary for the Digital Economy Fleur Pellerin announced her opposition to such exports last Friday, during a radio show hosted by Le Monde and public broadcaster FranceCulture.
Privacy International has compiled data on the privacy provisions in national constitutions around the world, including which countries have constitutional protections, whether they come from international agreements, what aspects of privacy are actually protected and when those protections were enacted.
Bloomberg reported today that security researchers have identified FinFisher spyware - "one of the world’s best-known and elusive cyber weapons" - in malicious emails sent to Bahraini pro-democracy activists, including a naturalized U.S. citizen who owns gas stations in Alabama, a London-based human rights activist and a British-born economist in Bahrain.
The apparent use of FinFisher against Bahraini activists underscores the need for broader Western export controls of surveillance technology, says Eric King, the head of research at London-based Privacy International.
A privacy charity says it is prepared to take legal action against the UK government if it fails to explain why it has not restricted the export of British surveillance technologies to repressive regimes, including Iran, Egypt and Syria.
Human rights group Privacy International is preparing to take legal action against the British government for failing to control exports of sophisticated spy technology to brutal regimes.
Legislation allows the British government to restrict or stop exports if they are capable of aiding repression or breaches of human rights. But the NGO says that despite repeated requests the government has failed to take any concrete steps to stop British surveillance technology being exported to oppressive regimes.
The UK government is in hot water with Privacy International which is suing it for selling surveillance technology to Syria, Iran and Egypt.
The privacy watchdog said that the UK government allowed surveillance technology to be exported to repressive foreign regimes.
For a while now privacy groups have been wondering how Iran had been getting its paws on some natty software to spy on its citizens. The body claimed last year that Creativity Software had been selling a location-tracking system to Iran.
The grubby practice of allowing UK-stamped surveillance tech to be shipped to brutal regimes could land the British government in court to answer allegations of aiding human rights breaches.
London-based NGO Privacy International has repeatedly asked the UK to exercise existing powers under the Exports Control Act 2002 to help put a stop to commercialised made-in-Britain spook spyware being used to facilitate social and political repression.
Back in April, the campaign group Privacy International wrote to the prime minister. The Guardian reported that:
"In a letter to Privacy International, Downing Street said the government was "actively looking at this issue" and was working within the EU to introduce new controls on surveillance."
But since then, there has not been a substantive word from the government.
Privacy International wants the Government to introduce tighter export controls to help regulate the sale of surveillance technology overseas.
The privacy campaign group has threatened to commence legal proceedings against the Government unless it immediately imposes export controls on surveillance equipment.
In a statement to IT Pro, Privacy International confirmed the Government has until Monday 6 August to provide a “substantive response” to the letter or face possible legal proceedings.
A major privacy group today said it is planning to take the UK government to court for allowing egregious surveillance technology to be exported to repressive foreign regimes.
Privacy International said evidence of surveillance technology being sold to foreign powers such as Iran has been amassing since 2011. The body claimed last year that Creativity Software had been selling a location-tracking system to Iran.
Privacy International has threatened the UK government with legal action for "turning a blind eye" to UK sales of snooping technologies to regimes that use them against their citizens.
According to the campaign group, British companies are supplying technologies for monitoring web access to oppressive regimes, and UK officials are not adequately applying export control laws.
The charity's lawyers, Bhatt Murphy, have written to the Secretary of State for Business Innovation and Skills asking why, despite repeated requests, the government has failed to take any concrete steps to stop British surveillance technology being exported to regimes that routinely engage in internal repression and serious human rights breaches including unlawful detention, torture and enforced disappearance.
Privacy International's founder and former Director General, Simon Davies, has been tasked by cross-party rapporteurs of the European Parliament to conduct a wide-ranging external assessment of the European Commission's proposed reforms to the EU data protection framework.
Nevertheless, one London-based campaign group welcomed the news.
"Publishing videos online is a very effective way for charities and NGOs [non-governmental organisations] to show the world their work and attract support, but it has historically been difficult to do without invading the subjects' privacy or placing them at serious risk," said Emma Draper from Privacy International.
"Simply identifying certain people in certain situations - refugees, for example, or rape victims - can put them or their families in danger of their lives.
The first joint report from the Committees on Arms Export Controls (CAEC), released last Friday, highlighted the importance of careful licensing and independent scrutiny for the export of ‘controlled’ goods, to prevent sales that could ‘facilitate internal repression’ in authoritarian regimes abroad.
The 2012 report of the Committees on Arms Export Controls (CAEC), released last Friday, has raised serious concerns over the government’s approach to arms exports, highlighting the use of British exports to facilitate repression and prolong conflict in authoritarian regimes abroad.
Last Friday the Electronic Frontier Foundation received new information from the US Federal Aviation Administration in response to their FOIA demanding data on certifications and authorizations the agency has issued for the operation of unmanned aircraft.
SchNEWS just tweeted this photo of protesters being blocked by a steel police cordon. This cordon has made frequent appearances at recent public order situations across the UK, including in South Wales, Leicestershire and Greater Manchester, but was originally developed for deployment during chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) incidents by Cobham plc.