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Our new series on Europe's closely observed citizens exposes mass surveillance practices throughout the continent. Here is our chance to ‘closely observe’ whatever can be known about the intense transatlantic intelligence cooperation that is under way in Europe, a 'cooperation' that could lead directly to the most dangerous and deadly despotism yet encountered by our liberal democracies. Here too we will share what we can learn about how to fight back.

Join the dots, and what emerges is a strange situation in which EU member state after member state is eager to join the club that is overtaking the nuclear club, in terms of power, prestige and revenue, as long as their publics let them. But within the EU, some of the same states are fighting back in European courts against the resulting authoritarianism, to protect the rights and privacies of their citizens. In the middle of that tension, all hope for European democracy, maybe democracy, resides. Closely observed citizens is a special Can Europe make it? series.

How can we keep up with the technology?

Any political or legal response will be useless if it doesn't take into account the rapid evolution of surveillance technology.

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See also: A clear-eyed look at mass surveillance by Cynthia Wong


Will privacy be saved in the courts?

European courts have interpreted privacy in a holistic manner, addressing not only the challenges of mass surveillance to data protection and the right to a private life, but also defending privacy as vital to the relationship of trust between the individual and the state in any democracy.

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See also: What does mass surveillance do to human rights? by Elspeth Guild

Who will stand up for our digital rights?

Protecting our fundamental rights against the destructive effect of mass surveillance is an essential task that should engage us all.

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See also: What will it take to end mass surveillance in the EU? by Jens-Henrik Jeppesen and Sarah St.Vincent

What is the philosophy of mass surveillance?

Mass surveillance does not follow the vertical logic of pure state surveillance as imagined by Orwell. Rather, it is diagonal – building on the information we voluntarily disclose to engage in our own "surveillance" of online friends. This makes it much more perverse.

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See also: Liberty, Liberalism and Surveillance: a historic overview by Quentin Skinner


The EU could be a global standard setter on surveillance reform, but actions speak louder than words

Despite landmark court cases, many member states in the EU continue to push forward with overbroad surveillance laws.

Who can keep the German secret services in check?

Given the scope of BND-NSA cooperation, the German government can no longer ignore that the supervision of its intelligence services is in dire need of reform.

France’s Intelligence Bill: legalising mass surveillance

The French government claims its new Intelligence Bill is defined in opposition to the American and British models – but this just doesn't hold once the text is examined. Quite the contrary.

In new gods do we trust?

Do you expect the machine to solve the problems? In this wide-ranging interview with the Director of the Open Rights Group we discuss bulk collection, state bureaucracies, the pre-crime era and trust.

Why bother about digital rights? An absence in the election campaigns

Digital rights are too often reduced to questions of ‘security’. In their election manifestos none of the major British parties appear to have grasped their wider significance.

The cost of silence: mass surveillance & self-censorship

The true impact of mass surveillance on media freedom can be felt in the moments when writers hesitate to conduct internet searches. With every pause, there will be something missed, something underreported, an opportunity to question lost.

Britain and the European debate on the uses of secrecy in court

EU scrutiny in the field of the use of closed materials in UK courts is of paramount importance for the future of democratic systems of justice, even if it polarises once more the positions for or against Brexit.

Digital rights and freedoms: Part 2

More than rights, a set of guiding principles is needed to counterpose to the reigning ideals of ‘security’, ‘growth’ and ‘innovation’. Alternative ideals, perhaps, such as democracy, health and environmental sustainability?  See Part 1.

Digital rights and freedoms: Part 1

Under the rubric of state security on the one hand and commercial openness on the other, we are being lulled into an online world of fear and control where our every move is monitored in order to more efficiently manage us. See Part 2.

Digital citizenship: from liberal privilege to democratic emancipation

On the anniversary of the Magna Carta, a call for a new debate on the conception of citizenship. Let’s seize the opportunity to transform our utopian dreams into everyday life.

Scope-creep in Denmark

It takes vigilance to prevent the terrorist attacks in Copenhagen from exacting not only the lives of two innocent people, but also the freedoms and human rights enjoyed by Danish citizens.

PODCAST: Defending human rights in a digital age

A panel discussion chaired by Marianne Franklin at Goldsmiths opens up the many human rights implications for the future of the internet as struggles over its ownership and control gather steam. (2 hours 1 minute).

Why Britain won’t talk about crucial elements of Jihadi John’s story

The role of our security services in the actions of 'Jihadi John' needs grown up discussion – we must not forget the lessons of Northern Ireland.

Poland: trust no one but the law

Last week the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg rejected a Polish appeal on CIA-prison cases involving the violation of numerous human rights' guarantees on behalf of two Guantanamo detainees. This was an important lesson. 

Defending human rights in a digital age

Public Debate: Defending human rights in a digital age is being livestreamed from Goldsmiths media and communications department, University of London at 5.30.pm GMT this evening. Listen here and read on.

Mass surveillance: wrong in practice as well as principle

The paradox of mass state surveillance, as the answer to non-state violence, is that it can overlook the intelligence targeted law enforcement finds and render critical infrastructures vulnerable—never mind threatening fundamental freedoms.

Report thy neighbour: policing Sisi’s Egypt

A regime bereft of legitimacy, save for its promise to guarantee national security, turns citizens into active players in a new culture of surveillance and reporting.

Will the democratic debate over counterrorism gain the edge in battle?

It is our role, as citizens, to scrutinise measures taken in the name of our security and ask, once and for all, for evidenced-based policies: there are no such things as depoliticised and neutral counter-terrorism strategies.

Police cooperation: another angle on the surveillance debate

Meet Bahar Kimyongür, a political activist arrested, detained, and released in three European countries on an unsubstantiated charge. His case shows citizens are disarmed when they are reduced to a name in a database. 

Please mind the datachasm

They began to interpret things like him leaving the house without his mobile phone as indications that their suspicions were correct. Welcome to one half of the datachasm. Sleep safe.

Behind the rise of the private surveillance industry in Central Asia

Multinational companies–including two listed on the NASDAQ–have been quietly providing Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan with increasingly sophisticated surveillance technology to aid state repression.

How generalised suspicion destroys society

Generalised suspicion is the ultimate destroyer of the social fabric: it thrives on betrayal, and fosters mutual distrust and demoralisation. And nowadays, it is impossible for anyone to be beyond suspicion.

A war of new connections

The close links between American surveillance of Africa and military facilities in England are revealed by campaigners working for non-violent social change.

The cost of digital silence in Turkey: 40 million euros

Turkey is known for attempts to control information contradicting official propaganda. However, a recent deal between the Turkish Government and a Swedish company running software to combat child porn could silence the digital opposition permanently.

Privacy and security in cyberspace: right of all or luxury of the few?

Evidence shows human rights groups subject to persistent and targeted digital attacks, compromising their information. Governments, donors and companies need to act to protect the privacy rights of all. EspañolFrançais

Privacy, surveillance and the state-corporate symbiosis

The relationship between governments and private corporations is defined by symbiotic, complex interdependence. How can we ensure democratic control in these conditions?

Torture, the UK's role, "I'm satisfied that our system is dealing with all of these issues"

A new Senate report lays bare US involvement in torture. As for Britain's collusion, well, you'll just have to take David Cameron's word — they're handling things. What could possibly go wrong?

Mass surveillance just doesn’t work

It is possible, desirable and respectful of human rights to conduct targeted surveillance on identified suspects with independent judicial oversight. It doesn’t appear feasible, however, to collect information on everything and everyone en masse. So why keep doing it?

Eric Hobsbawm and MI5

He was an increasingly isolated figure, regarded at the time with a contempt and hostility from some Party apparatchiks that exceeded even MI5 denunciations. 

Consciousness in the age of digital dystopia

Now we are still in the honeymoon phase of the internet, but we must ensure that we do not let the internet become another arm of tyranny. 

Brazil doubles down on cyber security



The out-sized military response risks compromising citizens’ fundamental rights. If Brazil is to build a cyber security system fit for purpose, an informed debate is imperative.

Where is civil society in the EU’s new Maritime Security Strategy?

The new EU ‘Maritime Security Strategy’ neglects civil society and raises concerns over fundamental rights.

Thoughts on autonomous weapons systems and meaningful human control of cyber

In cyber, borders, states, agencies – the traditional ways of organising international cooperation and communication no longer count. In cyber, everybody is a potential adversary.

The cooling wars of cyber space in a remote era

Hyperbolic language used to describe the potential consequences of cyber attacks has contributed to the ‘securitisation’ of the debate around cyber security issues. Increased transparency and accurate information is essential.

Privatizing security: talking with Lou Pingeot

National security entrusted to the market's private military and security companies can only address the symptoms, not the causes, of war and insecurity. Interview.

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