Technology and human rights in 2017

Below is a transcript of my talk at Liberty’s 2017 Annual General Meeting:

We have the extraordinary challenge, and the privilege, of being at a unique and vital axis in time – the precipice of a seismic technological revolution. As the world rapidly changes, our struggle to uphold, entrench, and extend human rights at the core of it is a struggle that’s outcome will certainly outlive us.

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We often pair technology and surveillance, because new ‘smart’ and internet connected technologies are used for surveillance, tracking, and data collection. If the industrial revolution was fueled by oil, the technological revolution is being fueled by data – a valuable commodity that is being mined and exploited at almost any cost. Protecting privacy is the environmental challenge of the information age. It is fundamental to the sustainability of a healthy democratic society.

As technological innovation grows, so too do the opportunities to embed surveillance in all aspects of everyday life.

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Surveillance has taken root from the phones in our pockets, and is increasingly creeping into the home.

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Why Google DeepMind secretly gaining 1.6 million UK patient records is a human rights issue

Published on Liberty’s blog, 7 July 2017

By Silkie Carlo

There’s been a privacy scandal unravelling behind the scenes in the NHS for the last 18 months. You might be affected – and you wouldn’t even know.

If you or a loved one visited the Royal Free London Hospital between 2010 and 2015 – or Barnet or Chase Farm hospitals between July 2014 and 2015* – Google DeepMind may well have a copy of your medical records.

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Giving evidence on the Edward Snowden revelations at the German Bundestag

On 1 December 2016, I had the honour of being invited to give evidence to Germany’s Bundestag Committee of Inquiry on the subject of international mass surveillance, as revealed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

This is the only major over-arching inquiry into Snowden’s revelations of NSA/international mass surveillance. Sorrily for the Committee, it became interested in evidence on what the UK’s agencies have been up to and what the recent legislative process (the Investigatory Powers Act) had been like.

It was a good opportunity to reaffirm that the UK’s new surveillance legislation must not be seen as world-leading because it is not compliant with human rights law and only entrenches and extends, rather than remedies, mass surveillance.

The video of my oral evidence is here, and a transcript is posted below:

 

 

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Another terrorist attack, another assault on our freedoms

Published on Liberty’s blog, 31 March 2017

By Silkie Carlo.

Last week’s terrorist attack was horrifying. From our office in Westminster, the sudden sound of sirens, racing police cars and then helicopters was chilling. As news came in of the lives lost, London was stunned to a sort of silence.

But the aftermath is characterised by the solidarity and British resilience we rely on for national healing.

The Prime Minister’s defiant statement reminded us that Parliament was targeted because of the values it represents: “democracy, freedom, human rights, the rule of law”. She reassured us in no uncertain terms: “any attempt to defeat those values through violence and terror is doomed to failure”.

But it wasn’t long before those values were put at risk.

The Home Secretary’s assault on WhatsApp in the wake of this appalling terrorist attack is draconian and misguided in equal measure

Last weekend, Home Secretary Amber Rudd proffered yet another enlargement of the surveillance state, branding secure messengers like WhatsApp “completely unacceptable”. She called any messenger that gives users privacy a “hiding place for terrorists” – apparently forgetting that she uses one herself.

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We warned you: smart TVs are watching you

WikiLeaks recently published CIA documents detailing the agency’s array of hacking tools – including the ability, developed in partnership with MI5, to hack smart TVs in order to subvert them into covert listening devices.

The leaks also revealed ongoing projects such as the development of hacking technologies for car software, raising questions as to the risks of fatal outcomes.

Few of the security and intelligence agencies’ practices are more disturbingly Orwellian than the subversion of TVs to covertly spy on households.

 

In this short discussion on Jeremy Vine’s BBC Radio 2 programme, I explain why hacking TVs is a bad idea, why you need to be concerned about it, and what Liberty is doing to fight the UK’s own capabilities to hack citizens en masse. Also in the discussion are computer security expert Robert Shifreen, and the BBC’s Security Correspondent Gordon Corera.

The full programme is available here (expires 7 April 2017): BBC Radio 2

 

How the UK Government can hack your personal data

Originally published by Mashable, 18th February 2017

By Gianluca Mezzofiore

 

From the moment you set foot on British soil, your personal data could easily be accessed, or even hacked, by the government.

New invasive legislation has been dubbed by critics as one of the most extreme surveillance laws ever passed in a democracy.

The Snoopers’ Charter — aka the Investigatory Powers Act — was passed into law at the end of last year. It arguably removes your right to online privacy.

In short, it forces internet companies to keep bulk records of all the websites you visit for up to a year and allows the UK government to coerce tech companies to hand over your web history with a retention notice and remove encryption, upon request.

If you think all of this sounds rather alarming, it’s because it is.

So what happens if you’re an unsuspecting visitor blissfully unaware of mass surveillance in the UK? Here’s a provisional guide:

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A Law That Treats All Citizens As Suspects

This is a video interview with Euronews, published on 27th January 2017, discussing how the Investigatory Powers Act (‘Snooper’s Charter’) affects us, and the onset of Liberty’s legal challenge to the mass surveillance powers.

Full video here: The UK’s new surveillance powers treat all citizens as suspects