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).

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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The GovLab Selected Curation of Articles on Net-Governance: Issue 30

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  30, June, 13 2014 can be found here.

This week’s highlights:

  • The World Summit on the Information Society +10 High-Level Event took place this week in Geneva, Switzerland. The event took stock of Internet communications technology (ICT) development in the past decade and will develop a vision for ICT development in the next decade, with a particular focus on bridging the digital divide.
  • ICANN’s 50th public meeting takes place June 22nd to 26th in London, England. The meeting will cover a wide range of topics, including the NTIA-IANA stewardship transition and the ICANN “accountability update”, as well as the new gTLD program.
  • Privacy issues continue to gain great attention worldwide, with the release of Vodafone’s transparency report this week, the European Court of Justice’s ruling that copies of webpages made during web-browsing do not infringe copyright law, and ICANN’s recent report on Whois and gTLD directory systems regarding domain name registrant…

 

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Cyberspace and Surveillance: Challenges to State Identity and Ontological Security in the Digital Age

Robert Ralston 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.

Increasing state surveillance of the internet and a seeming lack of global accountability and best practices regarding foreign and domestic internet policies demands the attention of students, scholars, and practitioners of media and communication, political science, sociology, computer science, and the like. With these concerns in mind, the 2014 Milton Wolf Seminar highlighted themes of surveillance, visibility, disclosure, and espionage in the digital age. This essay seeks to touch upon some of these themes, and to present a case for the study of ontological security in international relations as a way to explain, in part, U.S. practices of surveillance following the leaks by former National Security Administration (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden. Politically, the stakes are high as cyberpolitics becomes an issue of “high politics” in the study of international relations; states and the agents who produce narratives about the state frame cyber discourse in ways that attempt to justify practices of surveillance, espionage, and censorship. States justify intrusion into cyberspace in the name of stability and an idealized self-image. This, can prove violent and costly, with parallels to justifying war on the basis of empire in offline venues. In cyber venues, the United States in particular has had to justify state intrusion into such venues. Void of routinized…

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