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).

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…

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The GovLab Selected Curation of Articles on Net-Governance: Issue 28

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  28, May 30, 2014 can be found here.

This week’s highlights:

  • Increasingly, international Internet technology companies face conflicting jurisdictional issues that can act as obstacles to the growth of the Internet and its potential to connect people. For example EU data protection regulations may contradict certain ICANN registrar/registry policies, creating legal challenges for companies that operate in both regions.
  • The global supply of IPv4 addresses is steadily declining and ICANN is therefore pushing for Internet companies to quickly coordinate the global transition to using IPv6 addresses.
  • The Stockholm Internet Forum –whose theme was “Internet – privacy, transparency, surveillance, and control” has just concluded. Archival information can be found here. The World Summit on the Information Society +10 High-Level Event (WSIS +10) takes place from June 10 – 13 in the International Telecommunications Union headquarters in…

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Making Access Visible: Representations of the Internet

Willow Williamson is one of the eight 2014 Milton Wolf Emerging Scholar Fellows, an accomplished group of doctoral and advanced MA candidates selected to attend the 2014 Milton Wolf Seminar. Their posts highlight the critical themes and on-going debates raised during the 2014 Seminar discussions.

Marshall McLuhan’s often quoted “the Medium is the Message”[i] took on a new resonance for me as I absorbed the discussions from the 2014 Milton Wolf Seminar. What exactly is “the medium” of the internet; and who gets to define what it contains, decide where it is located, and make decisions about information and communication flows? These were some of the questions that participants discussed at this year’s Milton Wolf Seminar on “Foreign Policies of the Internet.” Panelists examined the layers of meaning contained within and represented by the internet, ranging from the physicality of its infrastructure and ownership, to what it represents as an idea, to how these layers affect international communications and relations. Underlying these conversations were the questions: What happens when international norms are in conflict? And, whose voices are heard and represented in determining and negotiating those norms?

Privacy Versus Security

Since 9/11 and the passage of the Patriot Act, ongoing conversation in the United States places privacy in opposition to security. These debates are not new, as evidenced by David Vincent’s historical account of the…

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