By Joshua Franco, Technology and Human Rights Researcher at Amnesty International
“In principle if I am talking indoors, or on the phone, or writing emails, I assume it all gets to the KGB(Belarus state security). So I don’t worry about it, I talk openly and say only what I would say if there were a KGB agent sitting next to me.”
This is what an activist in Belarus told me when I asked them about the reality of living with the threat of surveillance.
I had travelled there to see for myself whether the human rights situation had improved after a huge crackdown on activists in 2010, and what role surveillance played in this, for a new Amnesty International report on this subject. I was surprised at first how many of my conversations with activists started out with people telling me they had “nothing to hide,” and were doing “nothing illegal.”
But if many of these activists had been arrested or imprisoned merely for speaking out against the government, or for protesting. Did they really feel they had nothing to hide?