Six Frames Against Surveillance

Till Wäscher, School of International and Intercultural Communication & TU Dortmund

For years, privacy advocates had been speculating about a possible “Privacy Chernobyl” – a major scandal that would put the issue of surveillance on the global agenda and create a mass social movement against privacy intrusions committed by governments and corporations.[1] In the summer of 2013, this speculation became reality. Edward Snowden’s leaked documents detailing the mass surveillance activities conducted by the National Security Agency and its international partners caused – to stick to the nuclear disaster analogy – a temporary meltdown of public trust by citizens around the world.

The Snowden revelations revitalized in the public consciousness an almost forgotten genre of contentious politics – privacy activism. The main objective of this blog series is to identify, analyse, and critically assess the political communication of activists during anti-surveillance campaigns in the first year after the Snowden revelations to better understand the ways in which these issues have been framed by activists, understood by the public, portrayed by the media, and potentially acted upon in a variety of contexts.  

The series is based on the author’s dissertation on political communication tactics of the global privacy community for which he conducted 21 semi-structured interviews with activists from 14 countries. This first post in the series focuses on the core collective action frames against surveillance, articulated by the privacy activist community over the course of four campaigns: “Restore the Fourth/1984 Day” (July-August, 2013), “Stop Watching Us” (October, 2013), “The Day We Fight Back” (February, 2014), and “Reset the Net” (July, 2o14). These were largely on U.S.-centric protests; subsequent pieces in the series will explore how resistance to surveillance has been framed in other parts of the world.

Legal Frames

“Restore the Fourth” was the first attempt to organize and protest surveillance issues after the Snowden revelations. Mainly coordinated through message boards on the social news website Reddit, in more than 80 American cities (as well in Munich, Germany) people took to the streets to protest NSA surveillance. The three core demands of the “Restore the Fourth” network were to reform section 215 of the controversial Patriot Act; the creation of an oversight committee to keep checks on surveillance programs; and initiate accountability measures for public service figures involved in domestic spying activities.

Much of the communication efforts by… (click here to read the rest of this post).

‘Dear Google’: An Open Letter from 80 Academics on the ‘Right to be Forgotten’

Internet Policy Observatory affiliate Christian Möller discusses the May 13th open letter to Google signed by eighty scholars. The letter asks Google for more transparency on how it processes ‘right to be forgotten’ (RTBF) requests. To view the complete letter click here.

A year ago, in March 2014, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that Google and other search engines function as ‘controllers’ of personal information as laid out in the European Data Protection Directive (DPD). Responsibilities of those controllers include an obligation to keep data that provides identifying information about individuals for no longer than is necessary for the purposes for which the data were collected or for which they are further processed.

Search engines, according to the ECJ ruling, must remove links to outdated or irrelevant personal information from search results upon request. The Court found that individuals have a right to control their private data and that they have the right to request that information be ‘forgotten’ when the results show links to information that is no longer accurate or relevant. It also established that Google’s search engine results are fully subject to European data privacy law.

In an initial reaction after the ruling, Google called the judgment ‘disappointing,’ saying that it ‘went too far’. Following the ECJ ruling, however, the company followed the Court decision and has set up a form to submit removal requests. On the day of form’s release, Google reportedly received more than 12,000 removal requests. To date, Google says that it has received more than 250,000 requests to delist links and has evaluated more than 930,000 URLS  for removal. According to a Google transparency report, 41 percent of those URLs have been removed and 59 percent have not been removed. That sums up to roughly 380,000 URLs removed from Google search results because of RTBF requests.

At the same time, search engines are still struggling with the question of how to react to the Court ruling. Google has established an Advisory Council to help handle requests from Europeans claiming their ‘right to be forgotten’ and has published a transparence report and answers to frequently asked questions on the topic.

The Advisory Council published a report in January 2015 after…

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The GovLab Selected Curation of Articles on Net-Governance: Issue 78

//The Selected Curation of Articles on Net-governance (the SCAN) is a weekly digest on internet governance news, reports, and events produced by the Governance Lab @NYU (the GovLab) as part of the GovLab’s Living Labs on Smarter Governance project. The SCAN is cross-posted weekly from the GovLab on the Internet Policy Observatory. The original posting of the GovLab SCAN- Issue 78, June 5, 2015 can be found here.

Highlights:

  • A new briefing by Amnesty International and Privacy International lays out a 7-point plan for the post-Snowden revelations era, with recommendations for legal and policy reform, corporate due diligence, and international standards
  • The Paraguayan Senate defeated a mandatory data retention bill that would have compelled local ISPs to retain communications and location details of every user for a period of 12 months
  • Last Sunday night, the provisions of the Patriot Act that allowed the National Security Agency (NSA) to conduct a bulk data collection program expired. The future of the program will be decided this week by the Senate

Latest Developments

Bogado, David and Katitza Rodriguez. Victory: Turning the Tide Against Online Spying in Paraguay.Electronic Frontier Foundation. June 4, 2015.

  • In this blog post, the Electronic Frontier Foundation boasts of a recent victory in Paraguay, where the Senate “defeated a mandatory data retention bill that would have compelled local ISPs to retain communications and location details of every user for a period of 12 months.” The bill was introduced last year, and through a coordinated campaign by EFF, TEDIC and Amnesty Paraguay, the Chamber of Deputies unanimously…

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Internet Dementia – European Court Judgment and the ‘Right to be Forgotten’

Christian Möller, a Fall 2014 CGCS Listing Scholar, overviews and analyzes the recent European Court Judgement on the ‘right to be forgotten.’

The Spanish Case

In 1998, Mario Costeja González, a Spanish citizen from El Escorial near the Spanish capital Madrid, was about to be forced into the foreclosure sale of his property due to social security debts, a fact that, on page 23, was also reported by the regional La Vanguardia newspaper. Although the proceedings were concluded and resolved, for years to come a Google search of González’s name brought up the newspaper notice of the foreclosure.

In 2009, González filed a complaint with the Spanish Data Protection Agency (or Agencia Española de Protección de Datos, short AEPD) against La Vanguardia and Google Spain, asking for an injunction against both the newspaper and search engine. The AEPD dismissed the claim against the newspaper (which was under a legal obligation to publish the official notice), but issued an injunction against Google Spain SL and Google Inc. to delete the data from the search engine’s index. Google appealed to the AEPD, whichreferred the case to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxemburg.

On May 13, 2014, the ECJ ruled that Google must remove links to outdated or irrelevant personal information from search results upon request. The Court found that individuals have a right to control their private data and that they have the right to request that information be ‘forgotten’ when the results show links to information that…

Click here to read more.

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