GCHQ: Enemy of the Internet?

filesA report, by Reporters without Borders, has accused GCHQ and the NSA of being no better than their Chinese and Russian counterparts in terms of online censorship and surveillance.

The report entitled Enemies of the Internet is released to coincide with World Day Against Cyber-Censorship and comes on the same day that Sir Tim Berners-Lee has called for a Digital Bill of Rights to safeguard an “open, neutral” internet. It identifies specific government agencies such as GCHQ that have used the pretext of national security to move beyond their core duties and into the strategy of mass online surveillance that is prevalent today.

The authors demonstrate how these practises are undermining attempts to export democratic values to authoritarian regimes in countries such as Iran and Turkmenistan. This is an approach that Reporters without Borders characterises as “schizophrenic” with governments arguing that more countries should embrace concepts such as freedom of expression and freedom of information whilst spy agencies simultaneously curtail them. Big Brother Watch has previously warned about this, in the context of the Snooper’s Charter, pointing out that it had the potential to undo years of foreign policy work on the importance of a free and open internet.

This further highlights the urgent need for surveillance transparency reform as well as review of the legislation which currently governs surveillance practises. These are things that Big Brother Watch has been calling for since the beginning of Edward Snowden’s revelations about the surveillance strategies of the NSA and GCHQ. For more information on how we think this can be achieved please read our recent submission to the Intelligence and Security Committee. As well as this we, along with several other groups, have launched a legal challenge against the legality of GCHQ’s mass surveillance programme.