Edward Snowden’s latest leak confirms the existence of an NSA program that allows analysts to search through vast databases about internet user’s activity without any prior authorisation. This program, known as XKeyscore, is the NSA’s “widest-reaching” surveillance system for tracking activity on the Internet.
As Snowden told The Guardian back in June:
“I, sitting at my desk,” said Snowden, could “wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the president, if I had a personal email”.
Sean Rintel, Lecturer in Strategic Communication at University of Queensland and board member of Electronic Frontiers Australia responds:
It is clearer now than ever that, since we can’t retrospectively change these surveillance technologies, and indeed there may be valid uses of them, citizens of all countries need to stand together to demand three new kinds of digital rights.
We must have rights to personal data control. Knowing what, when, and how much of our personal data has been collected, and which agencies have access it to it.
We must have rights to transparent security institution oversight. Parliamentary and legal procedures must be in place to ensure that all searches of such data require strictly evidenced belief that a search is necessary, that searches are narrowly targeted, and that citizens have methods to access the details of such proceedings.
We must have rights to meaningful checks and responses to abuses. If there is any kind of problem with the use or integrity of data in such systems (such as overreach of searches, searches for non-security/law-enforcement purposes, data breaches) then citizens must have the right to meaningful civil and legal recourse. News website Mashable is currently running a campaign to crowdsource a digital bill of rights.
Australians should be involved in that because some of our traffic relies on US services and, as such, US laws. Australians should also engage with their political parties and civil society groups, such as Electronic Frontiers Australia (of which I am a board member) and its Citizens Not Suspects campaign.
With an election looming, now is the time for meaningful action. Whether or not one trusts our government or others, trusts security services/law enforcement or not, or believes that it is or is not reasonable to trade privacy for security, new digital rights to choice, control, and transparency will ensure our civil security.