February 11, 2014 | By Katitza Rodriguez

International Community Unites to Protest Big Brother

February 11th is The Day We All Fight Back. From Uganda to Poland, from Colombia to the Philippines, the people of the Internet have united to fight back. The Day We Fight Back’s main international action is to sign and promote the 13 Principles. The 13 Principles outline how communications surveillance can be conducted consistent with human rights and serve as a model for surveillance reform. Over the past year, nearly 370 organizations have come together to support it. Today, these Principles are about to receive their most important endorsement: the people’s.

The Principles make clear:

  1. States must recognize that mass surveillance threatens the human right to privacy, as well as freedom of expression and association, and they must place these Principles at the heart of communications surveillance legal frameworks.
  2. States must commit to ensuring that advances in technology do not lead to disproportionate increases in the State’s capacity to interfere with the private lives of individuals.
  3. Transparency and rigorous adversarial oversight is needed to ensure changes in surveillance activities benefit from public debate and judicial scrutiny; this includes effective protections for whistleblowers.
  4. Just as modern surveillance transcends borders, so must privacy protections.

The signatories of the 13 Principles Against Mass Surveillance explain why they’re taking part in the Day We Fight Back:

Annie Game, Executive Director, IFEX, International: "We can't do it alone. Mass surveillance is a global threat to free expression that calls for a global response. This day provides the opportunity for all of us to take action."

John Ralston Saul, President of PEN International, International: "For two centuries citizens, societies, civilizations have struggled to establish binding declarations of rights, bills of rights, and charters of rights. In a single decade governments around the world have now broken these rules – broken the law – through the unbridled use of new technology.  Privacy plays a central role in free expression. In private we prepare ourselves for public comment. Governments have now penetrated the lives of citizens, while obscuring the work of governments. This is a great reversal of the principles of citizens’ rights. It is a great danger to all of us."

Joana Varon, researcher at the Center for Technology and Society and co-editor of Oficina Antivigilância, Brazil: "Mass surveillance represents not only the end of privacy, but also a serious threat to the right to freedom of expression. There is no single democracy in the universe that could resist this scenario. We need to fight back or we will become used to self-censorship and lose all the spontaneity that feeds creativity. Ultimately, it will be the end of freedom in the widest sense."

Gus Hosein, Executive Director, Privacy International, United Kingdom: "For far too long, mass and intrusive government surveillance programs operated in the shadows, outside of the rule of law, and without democratic accountability. But expansive spying isn’t just a domestic problem. Surveillance at this scale threatens the rights of individuals in every corner of the world. The need for reform is urgent, but we can’t enact those reforms if we don’t make our governments understand that mass surveillance, operating beyond public scrutiny, threatens the foundations of democracy. People around the world on February 11 have an amazing opportunity to stand up, fight back, and demand that our privacy is respected and protected. By making our voices heard, we will take the next step toward real reform.”

Katarzyna Szymielewicz, Executive Director, Panoptykon Foundation, Poland: "Mass surveillance is no longer a local or national problem. It has been enabled by international cooperation across jurisdictions and regardless of any legal standards. Cooperation of intelligence agencies, governments, and companies is the biggest challenge in fighting surveillance but also the reason why we need to get together for such a fight. This is also why Panoptykon Foundation asked 100 questions on surveillance to the Polish government but demanded some of the answers directly from President Obama."

Arthur Gwagwa, Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, Zimbawe: The recently-revealed mass surveillance practices pose a clear threat not only to the enjoyment of the rights to privacy and free expression of millions of internet users across the globe, but to the very existence and proper functioning of the internet.  This worldwide trend is also seen in small countries such as Zimbabwe, where we have seen an unchecked rise in state surveillance and censorship. The main challenges lie in: both the state’s legal and technical surveillance capabilities, lack of domestic and regional judicial oversight and a contested international framework. 

Jérémie Zimmermann, spokesperson, La Quadrature du Net, France: "We have a major challenge ahead. On one hand, we have to get these intelligence agencies under democratic control and scrutiny. On the other hand, now that trust in companies such as Google, Facebook, or Apple is forever broken, we need to reinvent our relationship to technology and take back control of the machine, rather than being controlled by it. It can only happen through free/libre software, decentralized architecture, end-to-end encryption, and profound social and cultural changes. Protecting our privacy means protecting our intimacy, the only space in which we are in full trust and can experiment with ourselves, with new ideas and opinions. It is the very definition of our humanities that is at stake.”

Katitza Rodriguez, International Rights Director, Electronic Frontier Foundation, International/Peru: "Surveillance can and does threaten human rights. Even laws intended to protect national security or combat crime will inevitably lead to abuse if left unchecked and kept secret. The Necessary and Proportionate Principles set the groundwork for applying human rights values to digital surveillance techniques through transparency, rigorous oversight, and privacy protections that transcend borders."

Tamir Israel, Staff Lawyer, CIPPIC, Canada: "Privacy is not just an increasingly important information right that permits individuals to better navigate an increasingly complex and digital world, but it is essential to an effective democracy. If not checked, the recent excesses of our state surveillance apparatus will have negative implications for us all."

Marian Botsford Fraser, Chair, PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee, International: "Surveillance is the single greatest challenge to freedom of expression today. On 11 February, people around the world will  stand up and demand an end to mass and arbitrary surveillance. Join us in making our voices heard and ensuring that privacy is respected and protected."

Carolina Botero, Fundación Karisma, Colombia: “We must ensure that state surveillance is carried out in exceptional cases. We must demand the end of mass surveillance of electronic communications and request that monitoring activities are ‘necessary and proportionate.’”

Steve Anderson, Executive Director, Openmedia.org, Canada:  "Dragnet surveillance is a threat to free expression, commerce, and our basic liberties. Governments around the world have betrayed our trust with their secretive spying activities and that requires a response. The Day We Fight Back is our moment to draw a line in the sand and put governments on notice that the Internet is about new forms of democracy and collaboration, not a tool for outdated governments to deepen their grip on society."

Valeria Betancourt, APC policy manager, Association for Progressive Communications, International/Ecuador: "Secrecy surrounding surveillance practices, programs and systems that operate behind the backs of citizens, as well as the total lack of accountability (not only to citizens but among different state powers) has become the norm. We must reverse this trend."

Jim Killock, Executive Director, Open Rights Group, United Kingdom: “Mass surveillance is an existential threat to democratic governance. It is corrosive by creating possibilities of easy abuse that extend to every citizen’s lives at the whim of secret agencies. This is not just a question of accountability and transparency, but whether we are prepared to stand up for our future as a free society."

Cindy Cohn, Legal Director, Electronic Frontier Foundation, United States: "One of the big problems with the NSA and GCHQ is doing is that it encourages a race to the bottom where every country is spying on every other countries's citizen. On the day we fight back, we will begin to reverse this process".  "Governments should not be in the business of targeting us for our own use of strong encryption as the NSA is doing."

Dr Sean Rintel, Chair, Electronic Frontiers Australia, Australia: “Electronic Frontiers Australia believes that the existence of ubiquitous global surveillance involving the Australian government and its 'Five Eyes' allies amounts to the most serious threat to civil liberties that we have seen in 20 years of advocating for digital rights. Mass surveillance undermines individual privacy, subverts the presumption of innocence, and chills freedom of expression. It is fundamentally incompatible with the effective functioning of democratic societies. We must reassert the rights that are at the core of our democratic societies, and we must demand new rights to protect us in a new technological age. We are citizens, not suspects."

Jacobo Nájera, Activist, ContingenteMx, Mexico: "We are fighting for a strong Internet with the capacity for being inhabited socially."

Micheal Vonn, Policy Director, BC Civil Liberties Association, Canada: “Digital surveillance is becoming the most pressing human rights issue of the twenty-first century.  What some have called ‘the battle for the free Internet’ is all about the tools required for safeguarding our rights and democracy: freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of the press; privacy, security, and governmental accountability.”

Richard Stallman, Founder, Free Software Foundation, United States: “The current level of general surveillance in society is incompatible  with human rights. To recover our freedom and restore democracy, we must reduce surveillance to the point where it is possible for  whistleblowers of all kinds to talk with journalists without being  spotted. To do this reliably, we must reduce the surveillance capacity of the systems we use.”

Ramiro Álvarez Ugarte, Senior Attorney, Association for Civil Rights, Argentina: "Latin American governments took a hard stance against the mass surveillance revealed by Edward Snowden. Yet, in our region there are unacceptable practices that remain unaddressed by our governments. From the routine interception of telephone conversations to the actual following of social activists by intelligence operatives, our intelligence agencies are involved in abuses allowed by a lack of adequate and effective legal frameworks. To strengthen our democracies, we must fight against these draconian practices and there is no better way of doing so than joining our efforts with the global fight for the protection of privacy."

Dr. Christopher Parsons, Postdoctoral Fellow in the Citizen Lab, Munk School of Global Affair, University of Toronto, Canada: "Our democratic governments have been caught massively spying on innocent individuals around the world. In the process, citizens’ willingness to exercise rights of speech, association, and collective action have been chilled. By reforming governments’ behaviours in a concerted, global, fashion we can push back against this surveillance, surveillance that currently threatens to suffocate our democracies."

Laura Tresca, ARTICLE 19, South America: "ARTICLE 19 notes that the type and scale of the mass surveillance in question has a chilling effect on the right to freedom of expression and information. People are much less likely to express themselves and share information if they know, or suspect, that their personal records are being collected by the government. The monitoring of online communications promotes self-censorship. We mean, the application of surveillance mechanisms to the heart of global digital communications drastically threatens the protection of human rights in the digital age."

James Tay, Digital Development Coordinator, IFEX, Canada: "Today, we're Watching the Watchers! This is how we fight back."

Danny O'Brien, International Director, Electronic Frontier Foundation, International: "This isn't just a battle for reining back the NSA, or GCHQ, or any other intelligence agency. This is about drawing a line in the sand. If you create a secret apparatus that has carte blanche to collect data on every innocent user of the Net, you create an apparatus that can control politicians, detect and silence dissent, and dismantle any democratic check or balance. Mass surveillance is poison to the modern open society. We need to fight back, and we need to win."

ASL19 researcher based in Canada: 'We believe in the privacy of every individual in society.  ASL19 works to provide training and equipment for Iranians to enable a culture of privacy."

Deeplinks Topics

Stay in Touch

NSA Spying

EFF is leading the fight against the NSA's illegal mass surveillance program. Learn more about what the program is, how it works, and what you can do.

Follow EFF

BREAKING: Obama rejects laws mandating backdoors in our communications, but doesn't go nearly far enough: https://eff.org/r.wv2s

Oct 9 @ 12:13am

The final TPP text is still secret, but based on what we know so far it's a terrible deal for digital rights: https://eff.org/r.tu4p

Oct 8 @ 6:00pm

Great news! Gov. Brown has signed SB 741—a great first step towards limiting the use & acquisition of IMSI catchers in California.

Oct 8 @ 3:52pm
JavaScript license information