Eric King, head of research at Privacy International, the campaign group, believes there are few precedents for what the coalition proposes, stating that it would necessitate the use of “deep packet inspection technology”. Some broadband providers deploy this technology to track the browsing habits of their own consumers, but not normally at the state’s behest.
Privacy International said it had visited international arms and security fairs and identified at least 30 UK companies that it believes have exported surveillance technology to countries including Syria, Iran, Yemen and Bahrain. A further 50 companies exporting similar technology from the US were also identified. Germany and Israel were also identified as big exporters of surveillance technology, in what is reportedly a £3bn a year industry.
This week we've seen the British public rally against the government's invasive CCDP mass surveillance proposal. A number of petitions have been created - the ones of which I'm aware are below, but if I've missed any please do let me know in the comments.
Eric King, research director of Privacy International, said: ‘RIPA’s authorisation regime is amongst the weakest in the world and enables government access to information, with barely any real restrictions.’
Gus Hosein, executive director of civil rights watchdog Privacy International, welcomed the opportunity for a pause to examine the proposed legislature.
He said: 'What’s important and essential is that we continue to have these discussions. I would never argue that these aren’t important powers for a government to have, but these are modern policy problems that need sophisticated public debate.'
“CCDP changes everything,” Gus Hosein of Privacy International told Slate. “It compels telephone companies and ISPs to collect information that they never would have collected, and then makes them retain it. This will be the first time that there’s a law actively requiring an organization to collect information on innocent people just in case it may be of relevance in the future.”
“I’m afraid that if this program gets introduced, the U.K. will be leapfrogging Iran in the business of surveilling its citizens,” said Eric King, head of research at Privacy International. “This program is so broad that no other country has yet to try it, and I am dumbfounded they are even considering it here.”
Privacy International says that there is no doubt that it is designed to encourage MPs that might not agree with the snooping bill to support it.
Twitter was also the place where an apparent Lib Dem internal briefing note about CCDP was first leaked yesterday afternoon. London-based NGO Privacy International later verified that the document was genuine. The NGO went on to point out that the document contained factual errors and said it appeared to have been written to help convince the junior half of the Coalition to approve the Home Office's net-snooping proposal.
And where there is such a wealth of information, there is an element of risk that it will not be used correctly.
Emma Draper of Privacy International said: "Information, once collected and stored, will always be vulnerable to exposure by human error or corruption. The only answer to this problem is to collect only the bare minimum of information, and to delete or destroy information the moment it becomes superfluous to requirements."
An internal Liberal Democrat briefing on Home Office plans to massively expand government surveillance was today passed to Privacy International. The document contains significant evasions and distortions about the proposed 'Communications Capabilities Development Programme' (CCDP), and is clearly intended to persuade unconvinced Lib Dem MPs to vote in favour of the proposal.
What do we know?
Very little. The Communication Capabilities Development Programme (CCDP) is going to be included the Queen's Speech next month and we still haven't had public confirmation of the details. What we do know is that there have been secret briefings to MPs designed to scare them into compliance, and secret briefings to industry that were originally designed to calm their fears (but in fact have only served to increase their outrage).
For the past 18 months, I've been investigating the export of surveillance technologies from Western countries to despotic regimes, but I never thought I'd see a democratic government proposing to install the kind of mass surveillance system favoured by Al-Assad, Mubarak and Gaddafi. Yet the Home Office's latest plans would allow the authorities unprecedented levels of access to the entire population's phone records, emails, browsing history and activity on social networking sites, entirely unfettered by the courts.
Eyes without a face. Leaked reports suggest the UK government wants to give its secret service free access to the emails and text messages of all Brits. A CBC report featuring an interview with Eric King.
Freedom on the Internet has the potential to serve as a catalyst for human rights, poverty reduction and development, as well as a support for business and an imperative for security.
The Stockholm Internet Forum aims to deepen the discussion on how freedom and openness on the Internet promote economic and social development worldwide. What conditions are required for the Internet to promote development? With regard to new developments, such as increased mobility and cloud computing, what are the main issues for freedom and development?
The fourth annual Oslo Freedom Forum, titled Out of Darkness, Into Light, will bring the most daunting humanitarian issues of our time out of the shadows of obscurity and to the forefront of global awareness. The event will feature visionaries from academia, advocacy, business, media, politics, social entrepreneurship, and technology who will shed light on some of the world’s least known and most repressive regimes and exchange ideas on how best to tackle humanitarian crises.
ORGCon is back On Saturday 24th March 2012, at the University of Westminster in the heart of London, from 9.30am onwards. And it's packed with exciting speakers, challenging debates, and workshops that will leave your mind exploding with ideas!
Yet Eric King, of Privacy International, an advocacy group in London, cautioned that the ban might not go far enough.
"For a country like Iran in which all companies administering national infrastructure are effectively controlled by the state, it is still unclear whether the ban on exports of equipment and software "intended for use…by the Iranian authorities" goes far enough," he wrote in an e-mail sent to DW.
The Council of the European Union today reinforced restrictive measures on EU exports to Iran, banning "exports of equipment and software intended for use in the monitoring or interception of internet and telephone communications by the Iranian authorities".
ZTE markets its monitoring system as low-cost and user-friendly. In May 2008, the firm made a presentation to the government-controlled Iran Telecommunication Research Center about its latest networking products, including the "ZTE Lawful Intercept Solution," according to Privacy International, a London-based non-profit that advocates the right to privacy and obtained a copy of the presentation.
Gus Hosein, executive director of Privacy International, is not impressed.
"Not content with collecting vast amounts of information from your online activities, it seems Google are looking to start exploiting the offline space as well. Patents like this may never come to fruition, but they force us to ask ourselves: how many aspects of our lives will advertisers try to exploit, and where will it end?
"This is an attempt to turn our devices into personal spying devices, just so a company can try to sell you a coat on a cold day."
People often ask me why I investigate the surveillance trade - surely the police and intelligence services need these technologies to prevent serious crime and terrorism? I tell them that I completely agree - targeted surveillance, conducted within strict legal frameworks, can be a socially useful tool. However, vast swathes of the industry are in a different business altogether: mass surveillance.
And then there is Eric King, human rights advisor to Privacy International, who had been investigating the use of surveillance technology by authoritarian regimes for over a year—and who subsequently minced no words when it came to addressing those who furnished the wares, saying that Western companies were going "out of their way" to aid authoritarian regimes. When I recently spoke with him by telephone, King told me of people in post-revolutionary Libya and Egypt who had been sending him pictures of technology that had been acquired by their respective deposed regimes.
Today, 60 countries worldwide operate national DNA databases, and at least 34 more are considering putting them in place. The use of DNA evidence in criminal investigations can bring great benefits to society, helping to solve crimes, convict the guilty and exonerate the innocent. However, the mass storage of DNA samples and computerized profiles in databases raises important human rights concerns. Your DNA profile can be used to track you or your relatives.
On Friday, we wrote to 140 companies around the world that are known to be selling surveillance technology, to ask them a series of questions. We wanted to know whether or not companies conducted human rights due diligence when dealing with foreign companies or governments, how many of them were doing business or seeking to do business with 'Not Free' countries (as categorised by Freedom House's latest report), and whether any of them would be interested in meeting with us to discuss their human rights policies.
PI spent the first half of February in Asia, visiting our regional partners and speaking at events. Our trip began in Delhi, where the Centre for Internet and Society (in collaboration with the Society in Action Group) had organized two consecutive privacy conferences – an invite-only conclave on Friday 3rd February and a free symposium open to the public on Saturday 4th February. The conclave consisted of two panels, the first focusing on the relationship between national security and privacy, the second on privacy and the Internet.
Google’s challenge is to convince its non-technical users that these distinctions are meaningful – especially when many suspect its real objective is aiming not for improving its services but at sharpening its competitive edge. “This is about the fact that Facebook owns a massive space on the internet and Google doesn’t,” said Gus Hosein of Privacy International. “Google is trying to create a space by bringing together all its properties. But it is leaving the consumer in the dirt.”
Earlier this week it was announced that UK-based Datasift would start offering their customers the ability to mine Twitter’s past two years of tweets for market research purposes. The licensing fees will add another revenue stream to Twitter's portfolio - but at what cost to the company's reputation? Twitter, once the darling of the privacy world, seems to have lost its way.