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Breaking into Secret Surveillance State

There seems to be little overlap between “open government” and “surveillance state”. Public security –the most quoted justification behind surveillance – is routinely presented as the exemption from the expectation of state transparency. While we have seen significant developments towards more openness in such sensitive areas as public procurement, health management or IT infrastructure, when it comes to “our security” all rational arguments seem to fail.

Secret services escape citizens’ control

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.

Why should you know who has been asking about you?, re:publica 2014 [VIDEO]

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.

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