Access in the News
Last Thursday, Europe’s top privacy watchdogs stepped down at the conclusion of their terms. This week, the European Commission has yet to name a successor for its most important privacy posts. At a time when the European Union is actively considering landmark privacy legislation and simultaneously responding to the Snowden mass surveillance revelations, this is at best a shocking oversight and at worst a deliberate attempt to undermine Europeans’ privacy rights.
1:19pm | 17 January 2014 | by Katherine Maher,
After President Obama today announced changes to the NSA’s mass surveillance programs, civil liberties groups expressed skepticism and concern over continued bulk collection. Groups including Access, Demand Progress, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Fight for the Future, Free Press and ThoughtWorks vowed to continue organizing “The Day We Fight Back” a day of international activism on February 11, 2014 to demonstrate widespread opposition to the spying regime.
Today, U.S. President Barack Obama gave a speech laying out proposed reforms to the U.S. National Security Administration’s (NSA) mass surveillance programs. In his speech, the President called for reform to the current bulk telephony metadata programs conducted under Section 215, including the introduction of judicial review; guidance and limits on the use of the data of non-U.S. persons; and the creation of improved oversight at the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
Today, Access released it analysis and review of the President Obama’s Advisory Committee’s Recommendations for N.S.A. reform. While some of the suggested reforms could lead to welcomed increase of privacy protections, overall the recommendations do not go far enough.
4:12pm | 16 January 2014 | by Peter Micek,
Today, Vodafone announced it will ask governments in 25 countries for the right to disclose the number of demands it receives for wiretapping and customer data.
Yesterday, a U.S. Appeals Court invalidated the U.S. Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) net neutrality rules. In its ruling, the court stated that the FCC lacked the authority to prevent internet service providers from discriminating among certain types of traffic -- effectively allowing providers to make pay-to-play a reality online. This ruling is a significant blow to net neutrality, in the United States and elsewhere. The Court’s ruling creates a dangerous global precedent places the unique character of the internet -- its boldness, creativity, and diversity -- at risk. And yet, by ruling selectively on the merits of the case, the Court has left the door open for possible reforms, at least in the United States.
Last week, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) released a statement detailing plans to release not just one, but two reports on NSA surveillance programs. The Board will release one report on metadata collection under PATRIOT Act Section 215 and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), expected in late January or early February, and a second report on the targeting of non-US persons under FISA Section 702, with an indeterminate release date. These reports come on the heels of a parallel report by the President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies, released in December 2013.
4:18pm | 10 January 2014 | by Access Team,
A broad coalition of activist groups, companies, and online platforms will hold a worldwide day of activism in opposition to the NSA's mass spying regime on February 11th. Dubbed "The Day We Fight Back", the day of activism was announced on the eve of the anniversary of the tragic passing of activist and technologist Aaron Swartz. The protest is both in his honor and in celebration of the victory over the Stop Online Piracy Act two years ago this month, which he helped spur
After years of public calls for telco transparency, today marks a historic moment: the release of the first-ever telco transparency report. We applaud CREDO Mobile for being the first telco in the world to issue such a report, detailing their responses to law enforcement requests for user data.
One of the many recommendations in the President’s Review Group report on the NSA surveillance programs released last month was for the review of MLATs, or Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties. This was the second time that MLATs made the news in December: at the beginning of the month, eight major internet companies issued a series of principles for reforming government surveillance that including improving the MLAT system. Clearly MLATs are an issue, but what does this four-letter word mean, and why are they so desperately in need of reform?
Last month the President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies released their report and recommendations on reform of U.S. surveillance programs. The criticisms in the report, and the detailed nature of the more than 46 recommendations, underscore how much the NSA’s current mass surveillance programs violate the fundamental privacy rights of people around the world.
Access welcomes today’s report by the Global Network Initiative on its assessments of the three founding GNI members: Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo!. The Public Report on the Independent Assessment Process addresses how the companies in question respond to government requests “implicating freedom of expression or privacy rights” and describes the assessment of these processes against the GNI Principles. According to the report, all three companies were found to be in compliance with the Principles, as per a case review by independent assessors.
Access commends the opinion by the Advocate General, as it confirms the serious concerns repeatedly raised by civil society (see here, here and here, for example) and other institutions on the necessity and proportionality of mandatory blanket data retention in the EU. The mass retention of the activities of citizens, outside of the context of any criminal investigation, poses significant challenges to the very foundations of the rule of law and international human rights, including Article 7 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU.
11:38pm | 20 December 2013 | by Peter Micek,
Following close on Verizon’s heels, AT&T today announced it will begin to publish a semi-annual online transparency report in early 2014. This announcement is an abrupt about-face for the company, which only two weeks ago requested that the SEC allow it to ignore a shareholder proposal calling for exactly such transparency.
AT&T announced today it would begin in early 2014 to publish a semi-annual online report on the number of law enforcement requests for customer information that it receives, in each country of operations.