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Surveillance, Security and Human Rights

    August 01, 2017

    By Joshua Franco, Technology and Human Rights Researcher at Amnesty International. Follow Joshua on Twitter @joshyrama.

    You have probably heard of VPNs (Virtual Private Networks), right? They’re those things you use to stream movies online in other countries that are annoyingly blocked in yours. If VPNs were banned, how would you watch the latest robot apocalypse blockbuster online without having to wait a whole year?

    Now imagine that the online content banned in your country isn’t movies, but rather major social media platforms, or the main sources of information about your religion, or your sexual orientation. Imagine you use a VPN to access this information, and now that tool is being taken away.

    This is what’s about to happen in Russia. It’s already happening in China.

    June 29, 2017
    Since assuming the presidency of the Philippines a year ago, Rodrigo Duterte and his administration have presided over a wide range of human rights of violations, intimidated and imprisoned critics, and created a climate of lawlessness, Amnesty International said today.

      Using the highest office in the country, Duterte has explicitly approved violence that has led to thousands of extrajudicial executions, in the government’s anti-drug campaign. This surpasses even the number of people killed during the murderous rule of Ferdinand Marcos from 1972-1981.   “Duterte came to power vowing to rid the Philippines of crime. Instead, people have been killed in the thousands by - or at the behest of - a police force that acts outside the law, on the orders of a President who has shown nothing but contempt for human rights and the people who stand up for them,” said James Gomez, Amnesty International’s Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.  
    May 18, 2017

    On the eighth anniversary of the end of Sri Lanka’s decades-long conflict, Amnesty International calls on the government to repeal the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and ensure that any legislation it introduces to replace it meets international standards.

    The failure to repeal the notorious law is one of several commitments that the to victims of the conflict, and enact reforms that would prevent further human rights violations.

    “The PTA is a highly repressive law that contributed to many of the human rights violations that took place during and following Sri Lanka’s conflict. Despite being in power for two years, the current government has failed on its promise to repeal the law,” said Biraj Patnaik, Amnesty International’s South Asia Director.

    “What’s worse, it’s considering adopting a new Counter Terrorism Act that would continue to give the police very broad powers to arrest and detain suspects without charge and place them in administrative detention.”

    March 30, 2017

    By Amnesty tech expert Joe Westby. Follow Joe on Twitter @JoeWestby

    Anyone who hoped that the debate about encryption had already been put to bed, sadly, was wrong. Today, UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd will meet with technology companies including Facebook and Google to discuss encrypted messaging services, with a view to “persuading” the companies to gain access to encrypted communications.

    Earlier this week, in the wake of the Westminster terrorist attack, Rudd became the latest state official to blame encrypted messaging services like WhatsApp for ostensibly facilitating terrorist attacks. Meanwhile, yesterday the EU promised to put forward tough new rules on encrypted messaging in June.  We. have. been. here. before.

    March 08, 2017

    In response to WikiLeaks’ publication of thousands of documents on the United States Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) hacking tools, Sherif Elsayed Ali, Head of Technology and Human Rights at Amnesty International, said: 

    “Given everything we already know, this new revelation again highlights the inherent difficulty of keeping information safe in the digital age. The fact that one of the world’s most powerful intelligence agencies is vulnerable to losing control over its operational secrets puts into perspective the risks faced by journalists and human rights defenders in a world where governments are increasingly hostile to those who speak truth to power.

    “To protect transparency and accountability, we must preserve the space for civil society – in today’s world, this means protecting communications and data from unwarranted interference.

    November 17, 2016

    By Roseann Rife, East Asia Research Director at Amnesty International

    Facebook, Microsoft, and LinkedIn are among the tech firms expected to be on a charm offensive with Chinese officials at the World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, which started November 16.

    The new law codifies existing abusive practices and seeks to turn tech companies operating in China into de-facto state surveillance agents.

    China has made clear to Western companies what tune they must dance to if they want to gain or keep access to the riches of the Chinese market, currently dominated by national players like Tencent and Sina.

    A new Cyber Security Law passed in China last week goes further than ever before in tightening the government’s already repressive grip on the internet, embodied by its “Great Firewall”. It is a vast human and technological system of Internet censorship without parallel in the world. The new law codifies existing abusive practices and seeks to turn tech companies operating in China into de-facto state surveillance agents.

    September 19, 2016

    By Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada. Follow Alex on Twitter @AlexNeveAmnesty

    On Oct. 21, 2008, when I sat with Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad Abou-Elmaati and Muayyed Nureddin after the release of the report from the inquiry into their cases that had been conducted for two years by former Supreme Court of Canada Justice Frank Iacobucci, I was sure that they would soon see justice for what they had been through. 

    But the staggering and disgraceful truth is that nearly eight years later, these three men – all survivors of torture that Canadian officials made possible – seem further away from justice than ever. They have, in fact, perversely only been put through deepening injustice, this time through obstructive Canadian government tactics in our own legal system.

    March 21, 2016

    Posted at 0001hrs GMT  22 March 2016

    Government attacks on the encryption of online communication threaten human rights around the world, warned Amnesty International in a briefing published today as tech giant Apple challenges the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in court over an order to provide software to bypass iPhone encryption.

    The briefing, Encryption: A Matter of Human Rights, which is Amnesty International’s first official stance on encryption and human rights, says that people everywhere should be able to encrypt their communications and personal data as an essential protection of their rights to privacy and free speech.

    “Encryption is a basic prerequisite for privacy and free speech in the digital age. Banning encryption is like banning envelopes and curtains. It takes away a basic tool for keeping your private life private,” said Sherif Elsayed-Ali, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Global Issues.

    March 17, 2016

    As Tunisia prepares to extend a nationwide state of emergency on 22 March, Amnesty International has highlighted the government’s disproportionate and repressive use of emergency laws to trample on human rights.

    On 7 March armed men attacked military bases and a police station in the southern town of Ben Guerdane on the border with Libya. The attack and ensuing clashes killed around 68 people, including at least seven civilians and 12 security officers. This is the latest in a spate of deadly attacks in Tunisia over the past few months, which has prompted authorities to place scores of people under assigned residence orders, restricting their movements to specific areas, as part of measures that are, in some cases, excessive and discriminatory.

    March 10, 2016

    To mark the World Day Against Cyber Censorship, Edward Snowden talks to Amnesty about how governments are watching everything we do online, and why we must bring mass surveillance back under control. Follow Ed on Twitter @Snowden

    Today, the government is granting itself the power to police every citizen’s private life. Every man, woman, child, boy, girl. It doesn’t matter who you are, how innocent or not innocent you are, they are watching everything you’re doing. They’re intercepting it, analyzing it and storing it for increasing periods of time.

    The fact that we’ve got agencies like the GCHQ looking through webcams into people’s bedrooms, into the four walls of their homes, is terrifying. The NSA is collecting billions of phone location records a day, so they know where you got on the bus, where you went to work, where you slept and what other cell phones slept with you. We have to ask: “Do we want to live in a society where we live totally naked in front of government, and they are totally opaque to us?”

    March 09, 2016

    Digital rights activist Nighat Dad blogs on how women in Pakistan are being attacked online, and what they’re doing to stop it. 

    There’s a stereotype in some parts of rural Pakistan that the internet isn’t for women. It’s where people watch bad stuff or make illegitimate relationships. In a conservative Muslim society, women are not supposed to be online. Many women choose to use the internet in secret, so their family members – especially men – don’t know about it. 

    And that’s one of the reasons why women in some areas don’t feel safe online. They feel threatened in the same way they do offline. I’ve seen blackmail, photoshopped pictures, hacking of personal accounts and rape threats. Women activists and feminists are trolled and targeted as “unethical western agents”. Nearly half of reported cyber crimes are connected to the harassment of women on social media.

    Shame and blackmail

    March 01, 2016

    Amnesty International UK Release

    “It beggars belief that the government is blundering on with its snooping power-grab completely disregarding the concerns being raised from all sides.” – Kate Allen

    Responding to the surprise publication of the government’s Investigatory Powers Bill today, Kate Allen Amnesty International UK’s Director, said:

    “It beggars belief that the government is blundering on with its snooping power-grab completely disregarding the concerns being raised from all sides including no fewer than three of its own parliamentary committees, every privacy group in the country, the UN and tech firms like Apple.

    “It’s like adding extra storeys to a burning building.

    “Even the USA is rolling back its surveillance systems because of concerns over people’s right to privacy.

    “These surveillance measures go too far, too fast. Basic protections are simply not there, including proper independent judicial oversight - the very least required.

    December 15, 2015

    Tech firms must reject the Chinese authorities’ efforts to influence global internet governance in ways that would curb freedom of expression and exacerbate human rights abuses, Amnesty International said ahead of China hosting a major internet summit.

    President Xi Jinping is expected to address senior executives of global tech firms attending the three-day World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, eastern China, which starts on Wednesday.

    The Chinese government runs one of the world’s most repressive internet censorship regimes. The authorities continue to use vaguely-worded laws to arbitrarily target individuals for solely exercising their right to freedom of expression online. Since President Xi Jinping came to power, hundreds of people have been detained solely for expressing their views online.

    “Under the guise of sovereignty and security, the Chinese authorities are trying to rewrite the rules of the internet so censorship and surveillance become the norm everywhere. This is an all-out assault on internet freedoms,” said Roseann Rife, East Asia Research Director at Amnesty International.

    October 29, 2015

    Critical areas where the Canadian government needs to demonstrate commitment to upholding human rights in national security policies and activities were outlined today in a report on the anniversary of the October 2014 “Arar +10” conference.

    Convened at the University of Ottawa on October 29, 2014 by Amnesty International and the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, along with the university’s Human Rights Research and Education Centre and Centre for International Policy Studies, “Arar +10” reviewed the state of national security and human rights in Canada a decade after a public inquiry was established to investigate the rendition to Syria and torture of Canadian citizen Maher Arar.

    From a range of panels key recommendations emerged.

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