State intelligence and security agencies are using indiscriminate mass surveillance to hoover up our emails, calls, internet searches, contact lists, phone locations, webcam images and more.
When governments spy on us like this, they abandon long-standing legal principles. They treat us all like criminal suspects, and every detail of our personal lives as suspicious.
Our politicians tell us they need more spying powers so they can catch “terrorists”. But there’s no evidence that mass surveillance will help them. Governments already have vast powers to target those they suspect of doing something wrong. There’s no justification for them spying on all of us.
“Privacy is for the powerless, but transparency is for the powerful,” says former security analyst Edward Snowden, who revealed the shocking extent of secret electronic spy programs in June 2013. “When we live in periods of conflict, where we face serious foreign adversaries, it’s important to protect our values. It’s in times of panic that we lose rights.”
What is mass surveillance? Read our easy guide to how governments are monitoring your data.
"They know where you got on the bus, where you went to work, where you slept, and what other cell phones slept with you."
Privacy is for the powerless, but transparency is for the powerful
US and UK spies can switch on the microphone of your mobile phone and listen to your conversations, even if your phone is turned off
Every day, US spies share 200 million text messages with the UK
US and UK spies stored webcam images of millions of internet users not suspected of any wrongdoing
THINK YOU’VE GOT NOTHING TO HIDE?
Some people say: “if you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve got nothing to hide”. But that puts huge trust in our leaders to do the right thing. The question should really be: if I have done nothing wrong, why is my privacy being violated?
“We could have the most responsible government in the world today,” says Edward Snowden. “But tomorrow there could be a change.” Private data could be used to target journalists, persecute activists, profile and discriminate against minorities and crack down on free speech.
Our governments are also giving us a false choice – safety or freedom. Societies have had to balance these two things for centuries. This means we presume people are innocent until proven guilty. That they have the right to privacy. And that governments need to suspect someone has done something wrong before restricting their freedom.
The people looking at this data are looking for criminals. You could be the most innocent person in the world, but if somebody programmed to see patterns of criminality looks at your data, they’re not going to find you – they’re going to find a criminal.
STAND UP FOR OUR RIGHTS ONLINE
When it was founded, the internet was seen as a space where free speech and open debate could flourish. Today, that vision is under attack.
Right now, governments want us to accept that we don’t have rights when we’re online. That somehow, when we pull out our smartphone or sign in to our email, everything we do or say belongs to them. We wouldn’t allow this level of intrusion into our offline lives, so let’s not stand for it online.
Join us and call on the leaders of the USA and UK – as well as their close allies Australia, Canada and New Zealand – to ban indiscriminate mass surveillance and unlawful intelligence sharing.
© Amnesty International
Amnesty International's major poll into public opinion about government surveillance in 13 countries found that 71% of respondents were strongly opposed to the United States monitoring their internet use. Meanwhile, nearly two thirds said they wanted tech companies – like Google, Microsoft and Yahoo – to secure their communications to prevent government access. “People want to be followed by their friends, not their governments. They do not want to live under constant scrutiny of a ‘big brother’ surveillance system,” says Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.
of people worldwide think the US government should not intercept, store and analyse the internet use of people living in their country
of people worldwide think their government should not intercept, store and analyse the internet use and mobile communications of all citizens in their country
of people worldwide believe technology companies should secure communications to prevent governments accessing users’ data
The death of secrets
*Source for facts and figures: The files released by Edward Snowden as reported in The Guardian.