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Mass Surveillance

    July 14, 2020

    By Tanya O'Carroll, Director of Amnesty Tech

    Since the start of the pandemic, an army of companies - from the Big Tech players down to start-ups most of us haven’t heard of yet - rushed to be part of the Covid-19 response. This is the transformative ‘disruption’ to the healthcare sector they’ve been betting on - it just arrived a little differently than expected. But while they look set to cash in during the crisis, it could come at a terrible cost to our privacy.  

    June 18, 2020

    By Ramy Raoof, Tactical Technologist, Amnesty Tech Security Lab

    If you are planning to join a protest, your phone is an essential tool. You depend on it to access information, organize with your peers, document events and help others. Understanding digital security and best practices not only helps improve your readiness for a protest but also contributes to the digital safety of your communities and friends.

    Here are some practical tips for mobile phone safety before joining a protest.

    Let’s have a quick look at possible risks involved with using a smartphone when you are at a protest:

    December 18, 2019

    By Nicholas Bequelin, Regional Director at Amnesty International

    Mesut Ozil’s social media post about the political situation in Xinjiang has prompted an angry response from the Chinese authorities. The Arsenal footballer’s accusation that China is persecuting the predominantly Muslim Uyghur minority has been dismissed by Beijing as “fake news”. Meanwhile, a Gunners match was pulled from the state TV schedule and Chinese football fans have reportedly burned Arsenal shirts in protest at the player’s comments.

    Amnesty International has extensively documented the situation in Xinjiang over the past several years. We have interviewed more than 400 people outside of China whose relatives in Xinjiang are still missing, as well as individuals who said they were tortured while in detention camps there. We also collected satellite photos of the camps and analysed official Chinese documents that detail the mass-internment programme. This is what is really happening:

    August 01, 2017
    By Joshua Franco, Amnesty International Tech and Human Rights researcher   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.  
    March 10, 2017

    "In principle if I am talking indoors, or on the phone, or writing emails I assume it all gets to the KGB."
    Independent journalist in Belarus

    Cyber-censorship is now a global phenomenon, and it is not limited to websites being blocked. People were arrested just for what they said online in 55 countries in 2016.

    Governments are using sophisticated new technologies to silence spy on, harass and track critical voices.

    Mass surveillance is also a form of censorship, since many activists actively self-censor when they know that the authorities are listening in to all their communications. In Belarus, an Amnesty International investigation showed how potentially limitless, round-the-clock, unchecked surveillance has a debilitating effect on free speech and dissent.  Amnesty International has also uncovered well-orchestrated troll campaigns in Mexico to track and harass particular individuals and journalists through platforms like Twitter, and documented cyber attacks on activists in Qatar and Nepal. 

    March 03, 2017

    By Tanya O’Carroll (@tanyaocarroll) and Joshua Franco (@joshyrama)

    Both as a candidate and now as President, Donald Trump has made clear his intent to pursue aggressive policies targeting Muslims, refugees and immigrants under the banner of national security. In his first week in office Trump enacted the patently unlawful travel ban seeking to bar all refugees, and individuals from 7 Muslim-majority countries from entering the US. A second executive order the same week, as well as later accompanying policy memoranda, extended powers to law enforcement and immigration agencies to increase detention and deportation of undocumented immigrants.

    We do not know what the future holds, but the President’s statements certainly give cause for serious concern. Trump has notoriously refused to rule out the possibility of a “Muslim registry”, and has stated his intention to quickly deport between 2 and 3 million undocumented immigrants.

    September 20, 2016

    By Joshua Franco, Researcher/Advisor on Technology and Human Rights. Follow Joshua on Twitter @joshyrama

    Three years ago, when Edward Snowden was first revealed to be the source of news reports about unlawful mass surveillance programs by the US government, he said, “I don't want public attention because I don't want the story to be about me. I want it to be about what the US government is doing.”

    Now, three years later, in the midst of a campaign by the ACLU, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and others to pardon Snowden, that risk appears to be greater than ever. A recent editorial by the Washington Post (and at least one other similar piece by Harvard professor Jack Goldsmith) are arguing against a pardon for Snowden. In doing so, they risk dangerously - and incorrectly - minimizing the gravity of the human rights abuses he revealed in an effort to deny a pardon to the whistleblower himself.

    These arguments are based on a few flawed premises that need to be corrected.

    Premise 1: There is no privacy overseas

    July 08, 2016

    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?

    August 24, 2015

    Security expert and hacker Morgan Marquis-Boire spends his days researching the shady underworld of government surveillance. Here he explains how governments are using malicious computer code to spy on journalists and human rights activists across the world.

    July 10, 2015

    Anmesty's letter warns surveillance will have ‘chilling effect’ on human rights organizations.

    The UK should hold an independent judge-led inquiry into surveillance of human rights organizations by UK security services, Amnesty International said today in a letter sent to Prime Minister David Cameron.

    The Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), which oversees surveillance matters in the UK, informed Amnesty International last week that the UK has been intercepting, accessing and storing its communications, but is yet to provide an explanation as to why.

    "The Prime Minister needs to explain why the UK government is subjecting law-abiding human rights organizations to surveillance. This revelation makes it vividly clear that mass surveillance has gone too far. We must finally have proper checks and balances," said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International's Secretary-General.

    July 09, 2015

    By Tanya O'Carroll, Technology and Human Rights Officer for Amnesty International. Follow Tanya on Twitter @TanyaOCarroll

    Powerful surveillance systems are strangling freedom of expression and interfering with the legitimate work of activists and non-governmental organizations.

    Since former NSA analyst and whistleblower Edward Snowden released one of the biggest intelligence leaks in history two years ago, almost a week doesn’t go past without some new information on electronic surveillance making headlines. And yet, the more that is revealed, the more we become aware just how much governments are keeping us in the dark.

    July 03, 2015

    By Sherif Elsayed-Ali, Deputy Director of Global Issues at Amnesty International. Follow Sherif on Twitter @sherifea

    Just after 4pm yesterday, Amnesty International received an email from the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), which hears cases related to UK intelligence agencies. The message was brief but it dropped a bombshell.

    It said there had been a mistake in the tribunal’s judgment 10 days earlier in a case brought by 10 human rights organizations against the UK’s mass surveillance programmes. Contrary to the original ruling, our communications at Amnesty International had, in fact, been under illegal surveillance by GCHQ, the UK’s signals intelligence agency. Incredibly, the initial judgment had named the wrong organization – the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights – and it took 10 days to correct the astonishing mix-up.

    June 05, 2015

    Brought to you by Amnesty International and Privacy International.

    On 5 June 2013, whistleblower Edward Snowden first exposed how governments are invading our privacy on a massive scale.

    As a former analyst for the USA’s National Security Agency (NSA), he showed the world how intelligence agencies are working together to spy on our emails, web searches, calls and so much more. But that’s not all.

    The documents he leaked also revealed how governments are willingly sharing our personal data with the USA. We’ve learned that the NSA has secret pacts to share intelligence with at least 41 countries.

    These private arrangements are almost totally hidden from view and attack the privacy of hundreds of millions of people. Explore the map below to see whether your government is sharing data with the USA.

    The ‘Five Eyes’ alliance

    June 04, 2015

    On 5 June 2013, whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed the first shocking evidence of global mass surveillance programmes.

    We’ve since learned that the USA’s National Security Agency (NSA) and the UK’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) have been monitoring the internet and phone activity of hundreds of millions of people across the world. Two years on, we take a look at how the landscape has changed thanks to the documents Snowden released. (Read the full report – Edward Snowden, two years on.)

    1. We know A LOT more about what governments are doing.

    June 04, 2015

    Two years since he first released documents revealing the extent of government spy networks, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden talked to us about how he and the political landscape have changed.