‘Stop spying’ says Fry

Stephen Fry joined 40 free speech groups and other high-profile authors and artists on Tuesday to demand an end to the mass surveillance revealed by the whistleblower Edward Snowden.

They urged European leaders to take a stand against industrial-scale spying by US and British intelligence agencies.

Author AL Kennedy, artist Anish Kapoor and blogger Cory Doctorow are also among those who have signed a petition asking government heads to discuss the issues raised by Snowden when they meet at the European Council in October.

Fry said Snowden’s disclosures raised fundamental issues for Europeans: “Privacy and freedom from state intrusion are important for everyone. You can’t just scream ‘terrorism’ and use it as an excuse for Orwellian snooping.”

Started by London-based group Index on Censorship, the petition urges government leaders to “clearly and unambiguously state their opposition to all systems of mass surveillance including the Prism system”.

The petition says such surveillance techniques are “an attack on our freedom of speech and an invasion of our privacy”.

Mass surveillance
Files leaked by Snowden show the British eavesdropping centre GCHQ and its American counterpart the National Security Agency have developed capabilities to undertake mass surveillance of the web and mobile phone networks.

This is done by trawling the servers of internet companies and collecting raw data from the undersea cables that carry web traffic.

Two of the programmes, Prism and Tempora, can sweep up vast amounts of personal data, which is shared between the two countries.

The Guardian recently revealed how GCHQ and the NSA have successfully cracked much of the online encryption relied upon by hundreds of millions of people to protect their privacy.

Today Index will announce that 40 free speech groups have also joined the campaign, including Amnesty International, Liberty, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Russian PEN Centre.

Free speech organisations from Canada, Bahrain, Malaysia, Poland and Finland have also signed the petition.

More than invasion of privacy
Kirsty Hughes, chief executive of Index on Censorship, said: “Snooping and surveillance on this scale is not only an invasion of privacy, it also undermines the basis of democracy and free speech.”

Mass surveillance was a tool used by authoritarian countries and should not be tolerated, she said.

Index believes the public have yet to grasp the implications of what had been revealed.

“They don’t feel an immediate threat, they don’t think that someone is watching them as they are writing their emails,” said Hughes.

“Somehow the implications have not been appreciated. But if you told people ‘we are going to put a policeman at the end of every street and we are going to put listening devices in your home’ then that would cause obvious alarm.”

The petition comes as a briefing paper for the European Parliament said recent disclosures by the Guardian and other media groups had revealed “an unprecedented scale and depth in intelligence gathering” by western agencies that had involved “numerous breaches of fundamental rights”.

Vulnerable people
As part of its response to the Snowden revelations, the EU commissioned a report on the impact mass surveillance programmes have on fundamental rights.

Officially launched on Tuesday, it said that people across Europe are particularly vulnerable to NSA snooping because they are not protected by US privacy laws.

The report, written by Caspar Bowden, an independent researcher and former privacy adviser at Microsoft, said US programmes were sweeping up massive amounts of data on lifestyles, political attitudes and economic choices.

The report notes “there are no privacy rights for non-Americans under Prism and related programmes” and says the US probably places “no limitations on exploiting or intruding a non-US person’s privacy”.

Bowden concludes: “EU institutions have the right and duty to examine this emergence of cyber mass-surveillance and how it affects the fundamental rights of the EU citizen abroad and at home.” — © Guardian News & Media 2013

This article has been made possible by the Mail & Guardian’s advertisers. Contents and photographs were sourced independently by the M&G’s supplements editorial team


Hlophe complaint is an eerie echo

But the new complaint against the Western Cape judge president is also unprecedented

Mabuza contract grows by R10m

Eskom’s negotiators in a R100-million maintenance contract came back with a proposal to push up the costs

‘There were no marks on his neck’, Neil Aggett inquest...

The trade unionist’s partner at the time he was detained at John Vorster Square says she now believes his death was not a suicide

Study unpacks the ‘hidden racism’ at Stellenbosch

Students say they feel unseen and unheard at the university because of their skin colour

Press Releases

Gender-based violence is an affront to our humanity

Gender-based violence is an affront to our humanity

UK-Africa investment summit 2020: Think Africa Invest SA

UK-Africa investment summit 2020: Think Africa Invest SA

MTN unveils TikTok bundles

Customised MTN TikTok data bundles are available to all prepaid customers on *136*2#.

Marketers need to reinvent themselves

Marketing is an exciting discipline, offering the perfect fit for individuals who are equally interested in business, human dynamics and strategic thinking. But the...

Upskill yourself to land your dream job in 2020

If you received admission to an IIE Higher Certificate qualification, once you have graduated, you can articulate to an IIE Diploma and then IIE Bachelor's degree at IIE Rosebank College.

South Africans unsure of what to expect in 2020

Almost half (49%) of South Africans, 15 years and older, agree or strongly agree that they view 2020 with optimism.

KZN teacher educators jet off to Columbia University

A group of academics were selected as participants of the programme focused on PhD completion, mobility, supervision capacity development and the generation of high-impact research.

New-style star accretion bursts dazzle astronomers

Associate Professor James O Chibueze and Dr SP van den Heever are part of an international team of astronomers studying the G358-MM1 high-mass protostar.