Privacy International (PI) is a UK registered charity (No. 11474741) that fights for the right to privacy across the world.
We investigate the secret world of government surveillance and expose the companies enabling it. We litigate to ensure that surveillance is consistent with the rule of law. We advocate for strong national, regional and international laws that protect privacy. We conduct research to catalyse policy change. We raise awareness about technologies and laws that threaten privacy, to ensure that the public are informed and engaged.
To ensure that this right is universally respected, we strengthen partner capacity in developing countries, and work with international organisations that protect the most vulnerable.
PI envisions a world in which privacy is protected, respected and fulfilled. Privacy is essential to the protection of autonomy and human dignity, serving as the foundation upon which other human rights are built. In order for individuals to participate in the modern world, developments in law and technologies must strengthen and not undermine the ability to freely enjoy this right.
For more information on PI’s work please visit www.privacyinternational.org.
Humanade was one of the earliest supporters of PI’s Big Brother Incorporated (BBI) project. BBI is a global investigation into the export of surveillance technologies. Investigations carried out by PI since 2011 have highlighted the growing use of advanced surveillance technologies developed by Western-based companies by brutal and oppressive regimes in order to monitor, track and assess the activities, movements and communications of their citizens.
There is a growing trend of human rights defenders, activists and political dissidents being targeted by increasingly sophisticated technologies. The use of this technology not only obstructs their work, it also threatens a range of human rights. For example, the rights to life and freedom from torture are routinely threatened when activists and arrested and abusively interrogated on the basis of their online activities and communications, or the data held on their electronic devices.
PI is at the forefront of efforts to expose the illicit export of surveillance technologies to authoritarian states. The surveillance technology export industry is now estimated at $5 billion per year. With Humanade’s support, over the past year PI has launched groundbreaking work both in the UK and overseas to challenge this largely unregulated, but ever-growing industry:
• In November 2013 PI launched the Surveillance Industry Index (SII), the largest online database ever compiled on the surveillance trade. SII features 338 companies in 36 countries, and contains 1,203 brochures and marketing materials on 97 technologies. On its launch, SII was accessed over 19,000 times. Prior to SII these documents had largely been inaccessible to the public.
• PI filed an application for judicial review of HMRC refusal to release information about the state of any investigation into the export of Gamma International’s FinSpy surveillance technology. This follows the submission of a 186-page dossier of evidence linking Gamma to human rights abuses in Bahrain and Turkmenistan. In July 2013 the High Court of Justice announced that PI’s case would proceed to trial.
• PI filed the first complaint against Gamma before the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development for alleged complicity in serious human rights abuses in Bahrain. The complaint was accepted, and PI entered into mediation with Gamma in September 2013.
• PI wrote to 70 Swiss lawmakers urging them to reject Gamma’s application for licenses to export technology from Switzerland. The response was swift – the issue was carried by national broadcaster RTS and led to a Motion in Parliament calling for a debate on how the Swiss Government can set down rules to ensure that technologies used to repress dissidents are not exported from Switzerland.
• PI established the Coalition Against Unlawful Surveillance Exports or CAUSE with international partners in order to campaign to prevent the export of surveillance technologies to brutal and oppressive regimes
• PI launched legal action in South Africa relating to the export of surveillance technology to Libya during the Gadaffi regime, developed by the South African firm VASTech.
We are now seeing real progress, as governments respond to efforts to seek effective controls over the export of surveillance technologies.
In December 2013 two new categories of surveillance systems were added to the list of controlled technologies under the Wassenaar Arrangement, a multilateral export control regime. 41 countries participate in the Wassenaar Arrangement, including EU member states, Russia, and the US. Once these new controls are implemented domestically it will mean that, for the first time, licenses will be required before intrusion technology, such as Gamma’s FinFisher, can be exported.
Following pressure from PI around export of FinFisher, the UK Government submitted changes to Wassenaar aimed at controlling this type of technology. Governments will now be able to prevent oppressive regimes from purchasing these dangerous surveillance systems from companies.Tags: big brother, international, privacy