XKeyscore map

Edward Snowden's latest leak confirms the existence of an NSA program that allows analysts to search through vast databases about internet user's activity without any prior authorisation. This program, known as XKeyscore, is the NSA's "widest-reaching" surveillance system for tracking activity on the Internet.

As Snowden told The Guardian back in June:

"I, sitting at my desk," said Snowden, could "wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the president, if I had a personal email".

Sean Rintel, Lecturer in Strategic Communication at University of Queensland and board member of Electronic Frontiers Australia responds:

It is clearer now than ever that, since we can’t retrospectively change these surveillance technologies, and indeed there may be valid uses of them, citizens of all countries need to stand together to demand three new kinds of digital rights.

We must have rights to personal data control. Knowing what, when, and how much of our personal data has been collected, and which agencies have access it to it.

We must have rights to transparent security institution oversight. Parliamentary and legal procedures must be in place to ensure that all searches of such data require strictly evidenced belief that a search is necessary, that searches are narrowly targeted, and that citizens have methods to access the details of such proceedings.

We must have rights to meaningful checks and responses to abuses. If there is any kind of problem with the use or integrity of data in such systems (such as overreach of searches, searches for non-security/law-enforcement purposes, data breaches) then citizens must have the right to meaningful civil and legal recourse. News website Mashable is currently running a campaign to crowdsource a digital bill of rights.

Australians should be involved in that because some of our traffic relies on US services and, as such, US laws. Australians should also engage with their political parties and civil society groups, such as Electronic Frontiers Australia (of which I am a board member) and its Citizens, Not Suspects campaign.

With an election looming, now is the time for meaningful action. Whether or not one trusts our government or others, trusts security services/law enforcement or not, or believes that it is or is not reasonable to trade privacy for security, new digital rights to choice, control, and transparency will ensure our civil security.

1 comment

  1. QUOTE
    "It is clearer now than ever that, since we can’t retrospectively change these surveillance technologies, and indeed there may be valid uses of them, citizens of all countries need to stand together to demand three new kinds of digital rights."
    END QUOTE

    It may be true that we cannot "retrospectively change" these surveillance technologies because they lie in the past, but Sean seems to use that fact almost as a smokescreen so as not to advocate for the "changing" of them going forward.

    Momentum should and is being delivered targeting changing the manner and legality of use of these surveillance technologies elsewhere in the civil liberties movements around the world, why does Sean advance the view that it is a lost battle and we should just accept their existence and look to obtaining 'rights' that are only effective after the fact ?

    QUOTE
    "citizens of all countries need to stand together to demand three new kinds of digital rights.
    We must have rights to personal data control. Knowing what, when, and how much of our personal data has been collected, and which agencies have access it to it."
    END QUOTE

    Sean Rintel has missed the ballpark in my opinion in writing the above.

    He completely overlooks the fact that the NSA and indeed any government should NOT be spying on us in the first place without a valid warrant signed by a judge who has been convinced that the applicant has provided on a sworn oath, documentation (articulatable facts and circumstances, not mere idle wondering)founding a reasonable suspicion that specific items of evidence of an specific offence exist at the specified place they intend to survail/break into and that even then only those items mentioned will be allowed to be copied/taken.

    Sean seems to come from the position that they have the right to survail private citizens by default and in wholesale fashion and only once they have done so should we then have the right to know only after the fact when and what they accessed !

    This level of weak kneed concessions/oversights of defending the very fundamentals coming from a board member of EFA is most concerning indeed.

    Comment by Mark Stuckor on 15 November 2013 at 20:39