'Today We Fight Back': Global Action Against Mass Surveillance

Today--Tuesday, February 11th, 2014--is the day the people across the world are "fighting back" against mass, unwarranted surveillance.

With an online campaign designed to galvanize supporters of privacy and the open internet against the troublesome trend of government spying, more than 600 hundred organizations from around the globe--including Access, Demand Progress, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Fight for the Future, Free Press, BoingBoing, Reddit, Mozilla, ThoughtWorks, and others--are participating by posting banners on their websites and urging their members to endorse a set of 13 Principles for privacy protections.

"Surveillance can and does threaten human rights. Even laws intended to protect national security or combat crime will inevitably lead to abuse if left unchecked and kept secret." --Katitza Rodriguez, Electronic Frontier Foundation

According to the campaign's website, the day of activism, in addition to championing the broader goal of internet freedom, is meant to commemorate the tragic passing of activist and technologist Aaron Swartz. "The protest is both in his honor and in celebration of the victory over the Stop Online Piracy Act two years ago this month, which he helped spur," said organizers.

David Segal, executive director of Demand Progress, which he co-founded with Swartz, said: "Today the greatest threat to a free Internet, and broader free society, is the National Security Agency's mass spying regime. If Aaron were alive he'd be on the front lines, fighting back against these practices that undermine our ability to engage with each other as genuinely free human beings."

Those participating in the campaign are demanding an end to the kind of mass surveillance exemplified by the NSA programs revealed in more than eight months of reporting based on documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Condensed, those 13 'Necessary and Proportionate Principles' around which people are gathering make clear that:

  1. States must recognize that mass surveillance threatens the human right to privacy, as welll as freedom of expression and association, and they must place these Principles at the heart of communications surveillance legal frameworks.
  2. States must commit to ensuring that advances in technology do not lead to disproportionate increases in the State's capacity to interfere with the private lives of individuals.
  3. Transparency and rigorous adversarial oversight is needed to ensure changes in surveillance activities benefit from public debate and judicial scrutiny; this includes effective protections for whistleblowers.
  4. Just as modern surveillance transcends borders, so must privacy protections.

According to Katitza Rodriguez at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, one of the lead groups organizing the campaign, the 'Day We Fight Back' hopes to show that NSA-style spying is a universal assault on the people and democracy that goes beyond the simple invasion of privacy.

"Surveillance can and does threaten human rights," says Rodriguez. "Even laws intended to protect national security or combat crime will inevitably lead to abuse if left unchecked and kept secret."

Danny O'Brien, EFF's international director, adds: "This isn't just a battle for reining back the NSA, or GCHQ, or any other intelligence agency. This is about drawing a line in the sand. If you create a secret apparatus that has carte blanche to collect data on every innocent user of the Net, you create an apparatus that can control politicians, detect and silence dissent, and dismantle any democratic check or balance. Mass surveillance is poison to the modern open society. We need to fight back, and we need to win."

And Rainey Reitman, a third EFF staff member who directs the group's activism, appeared on Democracy Now! to discuss the digital protest:

All over the world, actions are taking place and campaigners are joining forces with a common cause.

The campaigners also released this video:

Stop Watching Us: The VideoStopWatching.us is a coalition of more than 100 public advocacy organizations and companies from across the political spectrum.

Join Us: News for people demanding a better world

Common Dreams is powered by optimists who believe in the power of informed and engaged citizens to ignite and enact change to make the world a better place.

We're hundreds of thousands strong, but every single supporter makes the difference.

Your contribution supports this bold media model—free, independent, and dedicated to reporting the facts every day. Stand with us in the fight for economic equality, social justice, human rights, and a more sustainable future. As a people-powered nonprofit news outlet, we cover the issues the corporate media never will. Join with us today!

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.