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Mass Surveillance

    May 04, 2015

    France is about to take one step closer to becoming a “surveillance state” with a new bill up for a first vote on May 5th dramatically expanding the government’s power to spy on what people do online and offline.

    The authorities claim the bill is needed to better prevent terrorism and “any form of foreign interference” and promote “essential foreign policy interests”. However, the overly generic definitions are likely to leave the door open to abuse.

    Here are some of the things the French authorities will be able to do without first obtaining authorization from a judge.

    Possibly intercept all your online communications
    French authorities could be able to secretly look at the emails people send, the information they store in the cloud, their confidential online records, including medical appointments and the searches they do on engines such as Google.

    April 29, 2015

    When we launched #UnfollowMe, our campaign to end governments’ use of mass surveillance, the Amnesty Facebook and Twitter feeds were swamped. A lot of people told us: “If you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to fear”. The reasoning goes that if you’ve done nothing wrong, it doesn’t matter if governments want to collect all your data, emails, phone calls, webcam images and internet searches, because they won’t find anything of interest. It’s an attractive argument, but it’s not right – and here’s why.

    April 13, 2015

    It’s time to “draw a line under” the debate Edward Snowden sparked with his revelations about intrusive government mass surveillance and “move on”. So the UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond told a meeting of national security and intelligence professionals last month.

    He was wrong. In fact, the debate is only beginning.

    Just two days after Hammond’s speech, the UK Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee released a report which concluded that British laws governing intelligence agencies and mass surveillance require a complete overhaul to make them more transparent and understandable. Amnesty International called the country’s regulation of government surveillance “an inadequate mess”.

    This is not mere rhetoric. The organization is in the process of bringing fresh legal action against both the UK and US governments to challenge their use of indiscriminate mass surveillance programmes to hoover up our communications – emails, calls, internet searches, contact lists, phone locations, webcam images and more – on an unprecedented scale.

    April 01, 2015

    By Thomas Coombes, Campaigns press officer at Amnesty International. Follow Thomas on Twitter @T_Coombes.  

    Four decades of domination over almost all aspects of life in East Germany came to an abrupt halt exactly 25 years ago today. On 31 March 1990, one of the most intrusive surveillance organisations in human history, the Ministry for State Security, more infamously known as the Stasi, was dissolved.

    Two months ago I was at the old Stasi headquarters, today a museum in Berlin, for an open day commemorating the storming of the building by East Germans a few weeks after the Berlin Wall fell. There were film screenings, discussions, information stands and a tour through the Stasi’s enormous archive that at one point contained files on an estimated six million people. Some say a file was kept for one in three citizens.

    March 26, 2015

    Mass surveillance, particularly indiscriminate US and UK collection of online data, requires the prompt attention of the United Nation’s new privacy watchdog, Amnesty International said today.

    Amnesty International and other NGOs had called for the creation of a ‘Special Rapporteur’ on the right to privacy, a new expert role set up today by the UN Human Rights Council, in response to efforts to expand surveillance powers and bulk collection of personal data, most recently in France and Canada. Governments are prohibited from arbitrary interference with peoples’ right to privacy by international law.

    “UN action is essential to analyze the impact of surveillance on privacy and free speech. Security agencies show a misguided and ever-growing appetite for data collection; someone has to watch the watchers,” said Peter Splinter, Amnesty International Representative to the United Nations in Geneva. 

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