January 28 marks International Privacy Day. Different countries are celebrating this day calling attention to their own events and campaigns. This year, EFF is honoring the day by sharing some advocacy strategies utilized by human rights advocates and activists from Argentina, the UK, Canada, and the United States, that have helped to defeat overreaching surveillance proposals that threaten civil liberties.

As we’ve continued to report, states throughout the world are demanding private data in ever-greater volumes—and are succeeding at getting it. They are obtaining detailed logs of our entire lives online, and they are doing so under weaker legal standards than ever before. Several laws and proposals now afford many states warrantless snooping powers and nearly limitless data collection capabilities. These practices remain shrouded in secrecy, despite some private companies’ attempts to shine a light on the alarming measures states are taking to obtain information about the populace.

These are some of the biggest success stories we have seen:

Success Story: Turning the Tide Against Online Spying

What: Online surveillance legislation put on hold after mass public opposition.
Where: Canada
Who: OpenMedia.ca, CIPPIC, and the Internet
Lessons Learned:

  • Innovative social media campaigns can fuel public interest.

  • Whenever possible, build opposition before bad legislation is introduced.

  • “People are smart. Let them help.” (Lindsey Pinto, OpenMedia.ca)

Read the full story: English, Spanish and Portuguese.

Success Story: Breaking News About Data Retention

What: Extreme mandatory data retention law overturned in the face of public scrutiny.
Where: Argentina
Who: Fundación Via Libre & digital rights advocates
Lessons Learned:

  • Cultivate relationships with the press.

  • Be sure you are precise and trustworthy in conversations with the media.

  • Don’t call the press for everything. Select your topics carefully.

  • Connect the local press with experts in the field.

Read the full story: English, Spanish and Portuguese.

Success Story: Dismantling UK’s Biometric ID Database

What: Biometric ID database dismantled in the face of public opposition.
Where: United Kingdom
Who: No2ID and affiliates; LSE Identity Project
Lessons Learned:

  • In-depth research can shed light on a complex surveillance scheme.

  • Op-Eds in local media outlets can help get the message across.

  • It is possible to halt a surveillance program after it’s been implemented.

Read the full story: English, Spanish and Portuguese.

Success Story: Mobilizing Netizens to Stop Cyber Spying

What: A privacy-invasive cybersecurity legislation failed to win approval.
United States
Who: EFF and coalition of digital rights advocates
Lessons Learned:

  • Use humor as a tool to build support and challenge outrageous proposals.

  • Cultivate relationships with lawmakers who share your position.

  • Reach out to experts in the field to generate authoritative opposition.

Read the full story: English, Spanish and Portuguese.

We hope this compilation will help other advocates who are encountering problematic proposals in their own countries.