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2014 - Communications surveillance in the digital age
Since mid-2013 there have been continuing revelations about the implementation by the United States (US) government of a series of programmes that constitute a system for global mass online surveillance. The initiative involves several agencies, primarily led by the National Security Agency (NSA), in close cooperation with companies that provide services through the internet. The system, which mostly targets foreigners and overseas communications, has affected private communications everywhere, from heads of state to ordinary web users.
Online surveillance, security and privacy are concerns that have been central to human rights activists for years – but with the recent revelations by former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden of United States (US) government spying on citizens, the issues have reached global attention.
This report examines the properties that make digital communication prone to surveillance and provides a general overview of where and how this surveillance takes place. For our purpose here, any internet or phone-based communication is considered to be digital communication, but we exclude from consideration other forms of surveillance such as direct observation or photography.