Amnesty International’s Tanya O’Carroll on privacy & the ‘nothing to hide, nothing to fear’ argument

By Ajay Sandhu 

I recently interviewed Tanya O’Carroll, a Technology and Human Rights advisor at Amnesty International, to discuss government surveillance and its impact. I framed our discussion around the most common response researchers studying surveillance receive from the public: the “nothing to hide” argument. The nothing to hide argument alleges that government surveillance programs serve a security purpose and should not to be opposed by innocent people. This blog outlines O’Carroll thoughts about the nothing to hide argument and it’s flaws, the importance of privacy rights, and the ‘encryption mentality’ that she thinks should replace the nothing to hide argument. Continue reading

“People just don’t get it” an interview with Kade Crockford of the ACLU of Massachusetts about why surveillance issues aren’t getting the attention they deserve

By Ajay Sandhu 

The precarious state of privacy often fails to stir public attention. For example, the Investigatory Powers Act (IPA), a piece of legislation granting police and intelligence agencies sweeping surveillance powers in the UK, is said to have passed into law “with barely a whimper.” What explains this lukewarm response? How does the US install bulk surveillance programs like Total Information Awareness (TIA) or the UK pass privacy threatening bills like the IPA (sometimes called the “snooper’s charter”) without receiving the level of attention that one might expect from a society which claims to value privacy rights?

To help answer this question, I spoke to Kade Crockford, the director of the Technology for Liberty Program at the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts (ACLUM). I spoke to Crockford because of her expert knowledge on issues related to privacy, security, and surveillance as well as her recent experience leading a campaign against the Boston Police Departments’ plan to buy social media spying software. Crockford played a central role in the pro-privacy advocacy which likely encouraged the Boston PD to scrap their plans. I thought that Crockford could offer insights into why surveillance practices aren’t earning a critical response and how to reverse this trend. Continue reading

Data for Social Change | An Interview with Andrew Stott


By Daniel Marciniak and Vivian Ng

The open data initiative has gained traction and visibility in recent years, particularly with various governments releasing a wide range of public data. Andrew Stott, the former Director for Transparency and Digital Environment for the UK Government, is an expert in this area who has been deeply engaged with the British government’s transformation towards data-driven governance. We interviewed Andrew when he came to speak at the Talk Big Data seminar on ‘Big Data, Big Brother’ at the University of Essex on 17 November 2016.

Could you tell us about the work you have done and your work at advocating for open data?

I have had a multi-faceted career in government. My recent work has been about driving the open data revolution, fuelling research, improved services in government, and public participation in improving public services at local level.

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Privacy: System Failure | An Interview with Gus Hosein


By Vivian Ng and Daniel Marciniak

Gus Hosein has worked at the intersection of technology and human rights for over fifteen years. He has acted as an external evaluator for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), advised the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, and has advised a number of other international organisations. He is the Executive Director of Privacy International. We interviewed Gus when he spoke at the University of Essex Talk Big Data seminar on ‘Big Data, Big Brother?’ on 17 November 2016.

Could you tell us a bit more about the work you are currently doing, projects you are currently focusing on, and Privacy International’s strategy?

The field is changing, the world is changing and we always have to deal with the change. Privacy as a right has always been contingent on and defined by the environment around it. A year and a half ago, we evaluated where we are involved in the fight for privacy and thought about where we need to be involved. We identified three programme areas where we can make the largest contributions: (1) surveillance and human rights; (2) the Global South; and (3) data exploitation.

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The revised standard minimum rules for the treatment of prisoners: Interview with Taghreed Jaber

By Munira Ali

On the 7th of April 2016, experts on prison reform and management were convened for a two-day meeting by the University of Essex Human Rights Centre and Penal Reform International (PRI) to discuss the recently revised standard minimum rules for the treatment of prisoners (also known as the Mandela rules- a name designed to honour the legacy of the late Nelson Mandela). The aim of the meeting was to come up with practical guidance for implementation, which struck a fine balance between making sure that the revised rules are not unreasonably burdensome on prison administrations and guaranteeing tangible improvement of prisoners’ treatment.

One of the experts, Taghreed Jaber, regional director of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region for PRI, shared her insight into the revisions. Taghreed, who is also an alumni of the University of Essex, contributed to the drafting of the revisions and views the process itself as a success. Continue reading