The revelations of the last year – made possible by NSA-whistleblower Edward Snowden – on the reach and scope of global surveillance practices have prompted a fundamental re-examination of the role of intelligence services in conducting coordinated cross-border surveillance.
On 30 June 2014, The Right to Privacy in the Digital Age: Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) was published. 1 The Report recognises the relationship between service providers and surveillance and the increasing trend of privatised surveillance, noting:
Justus-Liebig University Giessen and Geist Consulting
Cyber security is increasingly important to internet users, including stakeholders in governments, the private sector and civil society. As internet users increase, so does the amount of malware, 2 fuelled by ubiquitous smartphones and social networking applications offering new vectors for infection. Botnets – networks of infected devices controlled by malicious operators – are used as proxies to commit criminal acts including fraud and identity or data theft.
Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.” - George Orwell, 1984
On 5 June 2013, the Washington Post and the Guardian simultaneously published documents that would rock the world. The documents, leaked by ex-National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden, were not the first disclosures about the United States’ vast surveillance complex, but have arguably had the most impact.
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.
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.
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.