Since the first stories revealing the extent of mass surveillance appeared in the Guardian in June 2013, the Snowden files have helped to shine a light on the government agencies who monitor the online activity of their citizens and the companies who collect their customers’ personal data. Julia Powles (University of Cambridge), Mike Harris (Don’t Spy On Us), Josh Levy (Access Now) and Katarzyna Szymielewicz (Panoptykon Foundation) in a panel chaired by James Ball (The Guardian) explore who owns our data, how to take control of our online lives and ask what is the future of our personal data.
You are here
On 11 September 2014 digital right activists and advocates around the world commemorated the anniversary of 9/11 terrorist attacks on the WTC as the Freedom not Fear Day.
Between 15th-19th of September, in the week leading up the first year anniversary of the 13 Necessary and Proportionate Principles, Panoptykon Foundation and the coalition behind the 13 Principles will be conducting a week of action explaining some of the 13 guiding principles for surveillance law reform. Every day, we'll take on a different part of the principles, exploring what’s at stake and what we need to do to bring intelligence agencies and the police back under the rule of law.
The current Polish Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) will remain on his post for another, second term after the Polish Parliament confirmed his nomination on 25 July 2014. The decision did not come as a surprise: Wojciech Wiewiórowski was the only candidate for the post and has an excellent background for the role. Just like during the previous nomination process four years ago, EDRi member Panoptykon monitored the process, to ensure its transparency to the public.
Poland celebrated its 25 years of democracy recently. In those two and a half decades, among other changes, most public institutions in Poland have got more or less used to citizens' control. It has taken years of advocacy and watchdog activity, as well as a number of court cases to decide whether a given piece of information is actually “public”. But this investment is now paying off: today even some of the most secret of all secret services answer freedom of information requests concerning their work. There is, however, a stain in the image: one agency – Military Counterintelligence Service (SKW) – that keeps refusing to disclose any kind of information about its activity. Their approach is a reminder of much deeper and systemic problem faced by Polish authorities: the uncontrolled and uncoordinated secret services.
Panoptykon presents four short animated movies about family life "under surveillance". Series intend is to show how surveillance affects all of us: how use of modern tools such us cameras, ID cards, databases, scripts, and ad tracking tools - control all spheres of our lives.
In the post-Snowden world we became well aware that data we store on servers belonging to private companies tends to have a second life. It is where secret services and law enforcement meet the Internet. How to prevent bulk transfers from private to public data bases? How to make sure that due process is in place? What do we know about disclosures of our data and how can we learn more? Katarzyna Szymielewicz explains, what we should know about state authorities access to citizens data and why. She also presents the results of Panoptykon Foundation’s research on public authorities’ access to the data of Internet services users.
On June 4, 2014, one day before the anniversary of the Snowden revelations, Poland celebrates 25 years since the fall of an authoritarian regime. On this occasion, President Obama is visiting Poland and meeting with many heads of states—including officials who were affected by the mass surveillance scandal carried out by the NSA. Since October 2013, the Panoptykon Foundation, a Polish NGO, has tried to understand the relationship between the Polish and United States’ secret service organizations. Panoptykon believes that the Polish government, by accepting mass and pre-emptive surveillance, is reverting back to the much contested practices of the former, authoritarian regime — practices that triggered the revolution 25 years ago. Thus, the NGO has organized a user-generated campaign for June 4, urging people to welcome President Obama to Poland by vocalizing their thoughts on mass surveillance.
Privacy is not about hiding things that we want to keep secret. It is about our right to choose, when, for what purpose and who can see certain data about us. It’s about control. Even data that might seem meaningless, like separate internet application logs or IP address that changes apparently with every new session, but put together they might reveal a lot about Internet user with surprising accuracy. We might lose track of what we have put online, but Internet doesn’t forget. It may even guess things that you never told anybody. Unfortunately usage of digital shadow, especially for profiling purposes, is not regulated by law. What can you do to reduce your digital shadow or stop others form using it against you?
We are fast approaching an anniversary of first disclosures made by Edward Snowden. Even though the fundaments of our trust in democratic institutions and human rights safeguards have been shaken, political reality as seen from the European perspective remains more or less intact. What may seem even more frustrating, our understanding of the real politics behind mass surveillance programmes as revealed by Snowden remains limited.