Academics and researchers protest against mass surveillance

NSA spy 2Two separate open letters have been published by academics and researchers calling for an end to government practices of mass surveillance.

An Open Letter from US Researchers in Cryptography and Information Security’ is signed by 53 of the United States’ most prominent and respected security and cryptography experts, including Bruce Schneier (fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School, member of the EFF advisory board, and outspoken critic of the NSA’s methods), and Hal Abelson (Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT, a fellow of the IEEE, and a founding director of both Creative Commons and the Free Software Foundation).

Academics Against Mass Surveillance’ is signed by over a thousand academics working in a wide range of disciplines across the world.

Both letters are deeply critical of the kind of blanket surveillance revealed by Edward Snowden’s NSA revelations, arguing that such measures in fact endanger everyone’s safety rather than improving it,

‘The right to privacy is a fundamental right. It is protected by international treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights. Without privacy people cannot freely express their opinions or seek and receive information. Moreover, mass surveillance turns the presumption of innocence into a presumption of guilt. Nobody denies the importance of protecting national security, public safety, or the detection of crime. But current secret and unfettered surveillance practices violate fundamental rights and the rule of law, and undermine democracy.’

The letter from cryptography experts is unsurprisingly especially critical of the effect that the NSA’s systematic undermining of encryption standards has had on both individual freedoms, and on international trust in US technologies,

‘The value of society-wide surveillance in preventing terrorism is unclear, but the threat that such surveillance poses to privacy, democracy, and the US technology sector is readily apparent.’

Both letters end with similar calls to stop mass surveillance,

‘We urge the US government to reject society-wide surveillance and the subversion of security technology, to adopt state-of-the-art, privacy-preserving technology, and to ensure that new policies, guided by enunciated principles, support human rights, trustworthy commerce, and technical innovation’, and,

‘People must be free from blanket mass surveillance conducted by intelligence agencies from their own or foreign countries. States must effectively protect everyone’s fundamental rights and freedoms, and particularly everyone’s privacy.’

Douglas Crawford I am a freelance writer, technology enthusiast, and lover of life who enjoys spinning words and sharing knowledge for a living. You can now follow me on Twitter - @douglasjcrawf.

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