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NGOs, other organizations unite against the proliferation of online surveillance

A number of organizations involved with free speech and Internet freedom have united together to raise awareness of the online surveillance industry and the role that such technologies play in human rights.

When it comes to the Internet, users want to be able to surf the net without having to worry about who might be monitoring their activity. Investigative journalists, along with other people involved with issues that governments may be wary of, are among the people who could become major victims of these kinds of practices.

Unfortunately, the kind of data that can be collected about a single individual online can say a lot about who they are and what they have been up to – information that many governments would like to get their hands on, especially in more repressive nations. For instance, in China, those who are critical of the government are constantly under surveillance, and often persecuted as a result.

Dangers of online surveillance
Unfortunately, online surveillance capabilities could be moving their way into numerous facets of everyday life, even in countries where oppressive governments do not exist. For instance, the Guardian reported that Edward Snowden said that the National Security Agency used its surveillance powers to examine NGOs including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

What is alarming about these forms of surveillance is that these are not only organizations that operate within the U.S., but they are ones that advocate for human rights in places around the world, including ones that fight for rights that the U.S. supposedly protects in its Bill of Rights.

However, the surveillance programs of the U.S. are not the only ones in existence. More and more governments are looking to implement similar programs. Unfortunately, such programs are seen as advantageous for a number of different governments, including England and India, with others still looking to use them. If surveillance were to become the norm on the Internet, not only would users' privacy be supremely violated, it would mean that people would not be able to exercise the very rights that should be granted to them.

Protecting human rights online
Unfortunately for those involved, the online surveillance industry is one that could be quite lucrative given the amount of money in government contracts. As a result, more and more organizations have come together to speak out against such policies.

Recently, a group calling itself CAUSE has been the most recent to join the choir. Among the members of the organizations are Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch – two of the groups that Edward Snowden said were spied upon by the NSA programs.

CAUSE recently wrote a letter about its concern for the growth of surveillance technologies and the industry as a whole, especially among various countries throughout the world, including Turkmenistan, Egypt and Morocco.

"The proliferation of these technologies allows for mass surveillance of entire countries, via hacking computers or phones, mapping, profiling and analyzing social networks, installing malware allowing for surreptitious extraction of data, and mass internet monitoring and filtering through the tapping of under-sea fiber-optics cables that carry all communications traffic in and out of countries," the letter read. "These technologies enable regimes to crush dissent or criticism, chill free speech and destroy the fundamental rights that underpin democratic societies."

There are a variety of reasons why surveillance has a negative impact on the state of online freedoms and personal rights. Be it in more established countries or governments where human rights like free speech are less hard and set, such policies will have a negative impact on the way that people use cyberspace, and could act against the very policies that many of those in power have vowed to protect.

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