The May report of U.K.-based Privacy International

Private Thoughts, Privacy International’s monthly newsletter detailing our latest investigations, legal actions, and campaigns, along with other updates in the world of privacy and surveillance. It’s been a busy few weeks here at PI, so we hope you enjoy!

There are uncoloured links galore in this copy—just run your cursor over the text

New from Privacy International

To stand up to the mostly unaccountable spread of surveillance technologies around the world, PI, Amnesty International, Digitale Gesellschaft, FIDH, Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders, and the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute launched the Coalition Against Unlawful Surveillance Exports. The CAUSE are calling on world leaders to commit to keeping invasive surveillance systems and technologies out of the hands of dictators and oppressive regimes. The unprecedented action received international media coverage after its launch in Brussels on 5 April.

Continuing our investigation into the dark trade of surveillance technology, documents uncovered by PI found that a brutal branch of the Bangladeshi Police with a record of abuse are looking to purchase mobile phone surveillance technology. Further investigations revealed the technology was purchased from a Swiss-based surveillance manufacturer through an intermediary. We wrote to the Swiss authorities asking them to investigate and take any necessary action.

Great news! The European Court of Justice struck down the EU’s 2006 Communications Data Retention Directive, saying that the indiscriminate and blanket mass surveillance of metadata interferes with the right to privacy. This is a huge decision from the court that will influence future debates on communications surveillance across Europe and internationally. We wrote to the UK Government in the wake of the decision to ensure that it does not seek to conduct mass surveillance on metadata through other means.

How do surveillance companies get their funding? An investigation by PI found that those selling mass and intrusive spy technologies to human rights-abusing governments often are benefitting from the financial and institutional support from their home government.

The government of Pakistan is proposing a new law that significantly threatens privacy rights, containing broad powers when it comes to obtaining, retaining, and sharing communications data. PI, along with Article 19 and rights groups in Pakistan, voiced their opposition to the draconian law.

NETMundial in Brazil was billed as an event to respond to the Snowden revelations, but it failed to live up to its promise. PI’s Alexandrine Pirlot de Corbion attended the gathering, and said “it is difficult not to feel disappointed that a meeting which held so much promise resulted in outcome documents with timid protections for the right to privacy around the world.”

PI in the media

The Don’t Spy on Us campaign held a successful and thought-provoking event in Parliament with a host of international rights activists, one of PI’s partners in Pakistan Nighat Dad (Executive Director of the Digital Rights Foundation) was profiled in the Express Tribune in Pakistan.

After PI’s Dr. Richard Tynan raised the issue of Ubuntu’s phone not having open-source basebands, tech media outlets began a heated debate around what this meant for the future of open source phones.

Is your shopping centre following you? Channel 4 News investigated how free public WiFi in retail areas are monitoring the moves of their customers through their mobile phones. PI’s Mike Rispoli spoke with Channel 4 on the implications for privacy.

PI’s Eric King spoke with the Intercept about the latest Snowden documents revealing GCHQ’s quest to have broader access to data collected by the NSA.

Need to Know

A coalition of rights organisations led by Privacy International called on the United Nations to recognise that mass surveillance is incompatible with human rights. The submission for the Office of the High Commissioner to Human Rights confronts some of the biggest challenges to the right to privacy in the digital age.

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In confidence,
 Privacy International.