Colin Agur 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.
In the 1825 farce play Paul Pry, the title character spies on his neighbors by asking third parties for details of their lives and leaving objects (often umbrellas) behind so he has an excuse to return unannounced. His catch-phrase, “I hope I don’t intrude,” is as contrived as his reasons for monitoring his neighbors. In the years following Paul Pry, government efforts to read letters in the post and telegrams sent over the wires eclipsed the threat of a bumbling snoop.[i] Today, in the wake of the Snowden disclosures, these concerns seem quaint. With powerful agencies monitoring our electronic communication, ours is a world of frequent and deep intrusions. Nosy neighbors are the least of our worries.
Surveillance was a recurring theme at this year’s Milton Wolf Seminar, held at the Diplomatic Academy in Vienna. In formal sessions and social events spread over three days, the participants — an international mix of scholars and practitioners — explored how, in a time of increasing concerns about privacy and surveillance, diplomats, international organizations, the private sector, civil society, and the press can influence internet governance. The Snowden surveillance disclosures figured prominently in discussions about the capacities and…
The Institute for Human Rights and Business’s (IHRB) Lucy Purdon comments on discourse surrounding the Snowden revelations in the United Kingdom.
I was recently invited to the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania to present IHRB’s Digital Dangers project on the ICT sector and human rights, and to discuss with students our recent study on how Safaricom addressed the issue of hate speech during the recent elections in Kenya. While visiting the US, I was struck by the Atlantic-sized difference in the level of public debate in the US and UK following the publication of a cache of documents leaked by Edward Snowden, which revealed mass data gathering practices by the US National Security Agency (NSA) and the UK’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).
It has been almost six months since The Guardian began publishing documents in the UK. More information has emerged regarding massive state surveillance and data sharing practices in a number of countries, followed by outrage in Europe, South America and the United States. Even though, as Snowden said, “the UK has a big dog in this fight,” protest and discussion in the UK to date has been minimal. There has been a lack of political debate, perhaps due to the complexity of the issue, and general apathy from the public. A few other British newspapers went so far as to condemn The Guardian for acting in a way that threatens national security.
Documents outlining the NSA programme Prism showed…