On June 5, 2013, the UK newspaper the Guardian, along with several other major newspapers worldwide, began publishing a series of revelations of spying by the US National Security Agency and its equivalents in other countries, including, notably, the UK's GCHQ. The basis for all these stories was a cache of as many as 200,000 classified documents copied from NSA files by a young computer scientist and contractor, Edward Snowden.
The documents showed that the NSA has severely compromised security systems worldwide by undermining and breaking encryption standards and it has taps and back doors enabling it to monitor and collect global Internet traffic including not only email and Web page contents but friends lists on social and instant messaging networks and much more. The documents also reveal that GCHQ taps fibre optic cables and has intercepted foreign politicians' communications at G20 summits. All of this has taken place without oversight or accountability, and it is clear from subsequent events that neither Congress nor Parliament was informed.
The Open Rights Group believes that mass surveillance is inappropriate, expensive, and ineffective, and oversteps the boundaries of acceptable behaviour for intelligence agencies in a democratic society. In the US and many other countries, the Snowden revelations have led to public debate on the appropriate limits of surveillance; in December 2013 the US published a highly critical government-commissioned report into the NSA's activities including 46 recommendations for reining in the NSA. In the UK no such debate has taken place, and the only government action has been to threaten the <i>Guardian</i> with criminal prosecution. ORG believes that a public debate should take place in the UK as it has elsewhere, and that GCHQ should be brought under proper oversight and accountability.
Finally, the Snowden case highlights the importance of whistleblowers (YouTube). ORG supports the right to online anonymity.
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