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Australians urged to support protest over NSA surveillance

Image from the campaign against mass-surveillance.

Image from the campaign against mass-surveillance. Photo: Alec Perkins

Australians have been urged to join a global anti-spying protest urging a curb on the US National Security Agency's mass surveillance powers.

"The Day We Fight Back" campaign taking place in the US on Tuesday (Wednesday Australian time) has the support of Google, Twitter, Reddit and Microsoft and civil liberties groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union. It aims to end "mass surveillance - of both Americans and the citizens of the whole world".

Top executives from Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Facebook, AOL, LinkedIn and Twitter published a joint statement and sent a letter to President Barack Obama and members of Congress. The coalition of tech firms, known as Reform Government Surveillance, urged changes that would include a government agreement not to collect bulk data from internet communications.

In Australia, the group Citizens Not Suspects, led by Electronic Frontiers Australia, urged people to join the protest by displaying the fight-back banner on their websites. 

Greens Senator Scott Ludlam said Australians had an "special role to play" in the campaign for strong digital rights.

"We are one of the 'Five Eyes' countries that forms the core of the US government's invasive and unnecessary global spying program," he wrote on his website.

A Senate inquiry into mass-surveillance in Australia was initiated in December by the Greens. It will be reviewing the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979. Senator Ludlam urged Australians to make a submission.

Lindy Stephens, director of social impact at software company ThoughtWorks, said Australian legislators needed to act.

"The activities of the Australian Signals Directorate also demonstrate the need for the Australian government to take note of today’s stand against mass surveillance.

"It is time that our laws and standard operating procedures caught up with technology. Australian businesses are vulnerable if our confidence in using the internet to conduct private conversations and secure financial transactions falters," Stephens said in a statement.

Several websites connected to the campaign have included banners urging citizens to call and email the US Congress to oppose the NSA's bulk surveillance of phone records and emails.

Some 203,000 signatures had been collected at time of publishing.  

"Today we're proud to support the Day We Fight Back, to end mass surveillance," Twitter's public policy team said in a tweet on Tuesday.

Search giant Google reportedly sent emails to users who previously supported NSA reforms and urged them to "demand a change".

"Google recognises the very real threats that the US and other countries face, but we strongly believe that government surveillance programs should operate under a legal framework that is rule-bound, narrowly tailored, transparent and subject to oversight," Susan Molinari, Google's vice-president of public policy, wrote in a statement.

Molinari, like many of the Day We Fight Back's supporters, urged Congress to pass the USA Freedom Act, which would add restrictions to the government's ability to conduct electronic surveillance. That bill has 130 co-sponsors, both Republicans and Democrats.

Microsoft took note of the protest, with a company representative urging the US government to cut back on its spying.

"People won't use technology they don't trust," Frederick Humphries, a Microsoft vice-president of government affairs, wrote in a blog post last week.

"Governments have put this trust at risk, and governments need to help restore it. Microsoft will keep advocating for change until that day comes, and in the meantime will continue to take direct action to protect our customers."



  • Australia is at the forefront of this spying epidemic.

    The NBN Co is building a monopoly, government owned communications apparatus.

    Owned and operated by the government, paid for by you - to build it, then use it. ALL OTHER SERVICE PROVIDERS will be relegated to retail sellers of the government owned internet provision.

    DATA CENTERS - (29 of them at last count) - the ENTIRE internet traffic of EVERY AUSTRALIAN is designed to pass through these government data facilities.

    Malcolm Turnbull in opposition called NBN Co "more secretive than the Kremlin". But has done nothing to change this as Minister.

    In fact...nothing has changed from the original plan for NBN Co either.

    Halcyon Ford
    Date and time
    February 12, 2014, 11:31AM
    • Are you wearing a tin foil hat by any chance?

      Date and time
      February 12, 2014, 12:09PM
    • @ yourebeingwatched - I am presuming that you are not keeping up with the news. That you have no idea who Edward Snowden is. Or the NSA. Or even the Australian intelligence agencies.

      You may want to get back to playing Flappy Birds...

      Halcyon Ford
      Date and time
      February 12, 2014, 12:42PM
    • So, @yourebeingwatched, is being skeptical of government motives something to be laughed at? Given the breadth and depth of information that whistleblowers like Ed Snowden, Assange, Russell Tice and others have shown that governments and corporations are collecting legally and illegally, Halcyon Ford is absolutely correct. But don't worry, it's all being done to keep you safe from the terr'ists.

      Date and time
      February 12, 2014, 1:00PM
    • It's all abbotts fault, he shouldn't be so secretive.

      Man on the Moon
      Date and time
      February 12, 2014, 7:33PM
    • @Halcyon, You confuse infrastructure with purpose. All of the internet already flows through a very small number of 'pipes'. Heck every bit of data leaving and arriving from international points comes via just a few sub sea fibre optic cables.
      The point is, that the NBN itself is neither good nor bad for personal privacy (although you could argue that buy massively increasing the internet throughput it makes it even harder for spy agencies to find that needle in a haystack).
      You don't stop the progress and the innovation. Instead you stop the agency's power to snoop.

      Date and time
      February 13, 2014, 8:49AM
    • @ Peter - Stephen Conroy several years ago proposed a Chinese style 'Giant Internet Filter'.

      When this plan failed, along came NBN Co.

      Invasion of privacy is not simply snooping, it is also censorship. It is indeed a fine line of competing priorities.

      Majority of people have no idea what is happening - they barely know what a 'browser' is. When we phrase in non technical terms, it becomes clearer:

      The government agent enters your home using a key they have (it was made 'just in case') while your family is at work and school. They enter your bedroom and rummage through your undies drawers - you may have hidden something there. The neighbor - let's call him 'Edward' tells you a guy came in your home. You yell at him because it's a matter of National Security?

      Governments are pushing the line beyond their remit and the words of a former slave come to mind:

      "Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact measure of the injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them."

      - Frederick Douglass

      Halcyon Ford
      Date and time
      February 13, 2014, 10:09AM
  • It's almost been a full day and only 215,000 signatures? Seems most people don't really care. Why? Because it's not going to achieve anything - there are no goals of the campaign - except to become "part of a movement".

    Give us a goal, an achievement. Otherwise there's no point. Politicians wont care unless they're relevance is threatened.

    Date and time
    February 12, 2014, 12:30PM
    • That fact pollies think their phones computers etc are safe because their pollies shows how darfed their are most are probably monitor by their boss R.M. anyway so the NSA are small time. As for the NBN the same could be said about telstra before really.

      Date and time
      February 12, 2014, 1:17PM
      • Good point Michael - except for one thing.

        A warrant issued by a court was required to collect your data from Telstra (the warrant was required by Telstra to allow them to RELEASE the data to the government).

        Why would the government require a warrant for data.... that it has?

        Law Enforcement had officers in each Telco to execute warrants in the past. Won't be needed any more.

        Halcyon Ford
        Date and time
        February 12, 2014, 2:00PM

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