Freedom Not Fear Campaign Going from Europe-Wide to Worldwide

Protests against over-reaching surveillance powers isn’t just for Europeans anymore – the campaign appears to be expected to make it all the way to the United States among other countries.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

After an unusually long time without announcements, EDRI posted observations of the ‘Freedom, Not Fear’ campaign. The report contains the following:

After last year’s demonstration for democracy and civil rights, which was the largest in Germany in 20 years with over 15 000 participants, protesters in several countries will, for the first time simultaneously, take to the streets to demonstrate for their freedom. Currently, 15 countries have announced their participation in the international action day on 11 October. Such unanimous protests are mainly due to the ongoing shift of politicians to push through negotiations on surveillance and control measures behind closed doors. Among others, the international protest criticizes the planned registration of all air travellers in the EU, the planned delivery of data to the USA, biometric data in EU identification documents, as well as the retention of telecommunication data such as phone connections or a caller’s whereabouts for all 455 million Europeans.

Against this political spiral of interior armament motivated by crime-related dangers, civil society places the call for “Freedom not Fear”. A moratorium for all surveillance activities and the reduction of all mass scale surveillance, as well as an expansion of digital rights are demanded to protect and strengthen civil liberties. In addition, activists call for an independent review of every single planned or existing surveillance and control measure in terms of its effectiveness and undesired side-effects.

In the run-up to this action day, the German Work Group on Data Retention (“Arbeitskreis Vorratsdatenspeicherung”) calls for participation in the Munich demonstration “Freiheit Weiß-Blau – Stoppt den Ãœberwachungswahn” on 20 September 2008, which targets the restrictions of the right to free assembly and other surveillance measures in the state of Bavaria. In addition, the OneWebDay on 22 September 2008, will serve as a means for further mobilisation for the “Freedom not Fear” action day.

The “Working Group” has been largely credited for starting the “Freedom, Not Fear” campaigns. We reported on the German campaign where 20,000 citizens in the country held protests on a national level in the country in several cities. At the time, we posted the following:

As already mentioned, there are more protests expected, but this time, all across Europe. As Michel Blumenstein put it, “This is just the beginning” The plan is to hold protests across Europe on the 20th of September. Information on the plans is currently available on the websites wiki. Presently, demonstrations are expected in Berlin, but the hope is likely that more European cities will also join in the day of protest. Contact information and ideas are also available on the Wiki.

Indeed, at the time, there was only a demonstration expected in Berlin, Germany when the campaign started to rally people throughout Europe. When Michel said, “This is just the beginning”, he was not kidding. A look on the Wiki today reveals that not only are protests expected in 30 of the 50 countries in Europe, but 5 countries outside of Europe including Washington in the United States.

It may seem strange, at first, that there would be a protest in the United States when all this was started by the database society and surveillance issues in Europe, but people in the United States are all too familiar with warrantless wiretapping being passed in to law just a few months ago. Last we heard, the American Civil Liberties Union and the EFF were to sue the government for not upholding the constitution and the rights of American citizens. With a lot of distaste for the legislation, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the protest spread across the United States as well.

Perhapse the surprise at this point is why Canada isn’t on the list since they have been affected by privacy related issues thanks to the Patriot Act in the US. One example is the FBI’s access to one provinces medical files back in 2004. A more recent example was highlighted by the Privacy Commissioner of Canada where the Olympics is very likely ushering in new surveillance measures through the use of CCTV camera’s in public places – something widely used and despised in Britain. CCTV isn’t just for the Olympics either. It was only last year that it was proposed to put CCTV cameras in Toronto’s transit systems. In 2005, the Liberal government of Canada introduced the infamous surveillance bill. In spite of all this, many Canadians may feel that their privacy isn’t under threat outside of what goes into the United States mainly because the biggest threat, Bill C-74, died on the order-paper and that there hasn’t been much actually happening in B.C. regarding city-wide surveillance yet. Even if the Sony Rootkit fiasco was seemingly resolved in Canada which included illegal surveillance technologies included on the CD’s, it doesn’t mean there won’t be any in the future either. After all, we did report on the last tie warrantless wiretapping hit Canada (not even two months ago)

The international, and what is starting to be at this point, worldwide, day of action, is on October 11th. This is more than enough time for other countries to join in on the action before the deadline. From the looks of things, the movement against overreaching surveillance issues isn’t done growing yet.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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