GCHQ. Flickr/Defence Images
On June 5th, 2013 the Guardian newspaper published the first of a series of government documents released by Edward Snowden. Over the weeks and months that followed, a continuous stream of stories proved what many privacy advocates had suspected for a long time: the world’s digital communications are being continuously spied upon by nation states with precious little oversight.
A year later, we're still learning about operations conducted globally by the United States and its closest allies in defiance of billions of people's fundamental freedoms. We've discovered that the US government has confidential systems in place to scoop up data from US Internet companies that dominate much of online activity today. And we've learned that the British equivalent, GCHQ, has taken millions of snapshots of Webcam images as they eavesdrop on the Internet backbone.
June 5th, 2014 marks a new year that will not just be about listening to the inside story of mass surveillance, but a new year of pushing for change. Talk to your family and friends. Tell politicians to honor their commitments to privacy. Help the free software community to develop secure and easy-to-use services that anyone, anywhere in the world can access.
What else can you do? Here’s some of what’s happening on the first Snowden anniversary.
Canada: OpenMedia.ca and the Protect Our Privacy Coalition will be ramping up their campaign for effective legal measures to protect every resident of Canada from government surveillance. OpenMedia.ca will be supporting the Reset The Net initiative, and encouraging use of encryption as a way people can fight mass surveillance. They will also be intensifying efforts aimed at Canadian MPs and at Prime Minister Stephen Harper, urging him to take responsibility for his government’s actions and defend online privacy.
Colombia: Digital rights group Fundación Karisma will organize a workshop bringing together journalists and security experts to create a new generation of tech-savvy researchers who'll be able to protect their sources using a new generation of secure journalist tools.
Mexico: Citizens are reasserting their fight for net neutrality, privacy and freedom of speech in their fierce opposition to President Enrique Peña Nieto's telecommunications bill, which would turn the Mexican Internet into an instrument of surveillance and control. Through the #DefenderInternet (Defending Internet) campaign–and the support from the French activist organization La Quadrature du Net — Mexican activists have developed a site that lets Mexicans call lawmakers to demand that they put human rights at the core of any new bill.
Poland: The anniversary of first Snowden revelations coincides with the celebration of 25 years of freedom in Poland and the overthrow of communism. President Obama and many other heads of state will be visiting, including politicians from countries that were affected by the NSA mass surveillance scandal. Poland’s Panoptykon Foundation will be using the visit to highlight the importance of the right to freedom of speech and privacy in a country which overthrew an oppressive regime, and which understands the dangers of ubiquitous mass surveillance. In the week after the anniversaries Panoptykon will celebrate its fifth birthday with a series of privacy workshops dealing with email encryption and the basics of privacy and security online, including a cryptoparty supported by Warsaw’s hackerspace.
Spain: In Barcelona, the Association for Progressive Communications is holding Take Back The Net, from June 4-5 where human rights activists and tech providers will join together to share knowledge on how surveillance affects them, and co-operate to teach the latest tools to the people who need them. You can join Take Back the Net online or off, or hold a CryptoParty in your own neighbourhood (as Snowden did in Hawaii back in 2012).
Ukraine: From June 6-8 SHARE Defense will transform the Yanukovych residence Mezhyhirya near Kyev into a knowledge-sharing platform. Activists will gather to share experiences and discuss issues related to freedom of speech, investigative journalism, digital security and activism in form of lectures, open discussions and workshops. On February 22nd, following the end of the Yanukovych government and his abrupt departure, the Mezhyhirya compound, his residence in the Kyiv countryside, was opened to protesters, activists and journalists. This led to the discovery of more than 200 folders of documents detailing the former president’s activities. At the event SHARE Defense will present final analysis of the documents together with a new documentary about YanukovychLeaks.
United Kingdom: On June 7, the Don’t Spy on Us Coalition will be expanding their battle to stop GCHQ spying on Britons at a major public event in central London. Hosted by The Guardian, event speakers will include Cory Doctorow, Alan Rusbridger, Bruce Schneier, Neil Tennant, Shami Chakribarti, Lord Richard Allan, Baroness Helena Kennedy, Claude Moraes MEP, Ian Brown, Caspar Bowden, Gabrielle Guillemin, and more. You can join the coalition here and find out details of the event here.
United States: We're taking technical steps to take our privacy back with Reset The Net, a campaign to push for companies to add government-proof security to their sites and apps and to spread NSA-resistant privacy tools to our friends and neighbours. Access's Encrypt All The Things is another initiative that will be ramping up the pressure on Internet platforms to lock down their data against spying on June 5.
Members of the international coalition behind the Necessary and Proportionate Principles against unchecked surveillance (many are among groups mentioned above) will be launching campaigns, speaking to legislators and holding live events around the world. Simon Davies, one of the pioneers of the global privacy movement, will be reporting how governments in several countries have responded to the Snowden revelations—and how they can do more.
This article first appeared at Global Voices Advocacy