(MintPress) – The hacker collective Anonymous announced the upcoming International Day for Privacy over the weekend, an online event expected to draw thousands of online actions to protest the proliferation of state surveillance and eroding citizen freedoms.
“Privacy of the people is suffering more and more outrages, we should not tolerate it. Cameras are everywhere, even in our sky. Robots are used to gather information collected through Internet spying,” said Anonymous in an online statement.
To some, the ominous warning may sound like the trappings of a far flung conspiracy theory. However, there is good basis to believe that governments are cracking down on Internet activism and online protests as well as public movement through increased surveillance and regulation.
“If governments and corporations reach their goal to use network surveillance technologies to take control of our world, they will clear freedom from both the real life and the Internet, that means Anonymous won’t be able to continue helping humanity.”
Spy files a multibillion dollar international industry
Anonymous, the loose group of online hackers, has carried out attacks on government Web sites, including the Department of Defense, the Israeli Knesset and the Syrian Defense Ministry, among others. At times, the group has gained public support for exposing pedophiles and attacking the Westboro Baptist Church, a homophobic hate group.
Most recently, the group caused an uproar for highlighting Steubenville, a small Ohio high school where two football players were arrested and charged with rape and kidnap of an unconscious 15-year-old girl.
The correspondence surrounding the incident was made public, showing that many students from the football team praised the action, sending pictures of the comatose victim through Facebook and email.
The very work of Anonymous and others relies upon the relative secrecy and anonymity of the Internet, allowing hackers to move covertly through the digital world to expose criminals and corruption.
The warnings of Anonymous regarding the crackdown on Internet freedoms are largely substantiated by WikiLeaks’ release of 287 documents in 2011 known as the “Spy Files.”
These same files show now deposed dictatorships, overthrown during the Arab Spring uprisings, survived through extensive surveillance of citizen movement. This was underscored after the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and Moammar Gadhafi in Libya, both in 2011.
The vast troves of surveillance technology uncovered after the fall of these regimes demonstrates that both dictators derived much of their power from the proliferation of vast surveillance apparatus, monitoring citizen movements, especially among those activists who may pose a threat to regime survival.
The U.S. is subject to the same trends as unmitigated dictatorships and hegemonic regimes.
WikiLeaks reports that “In January 2011, the National Security Agency (NSA) broke ground on a $1.5 billion facility in the Utah desert that is designed to store terabytes of domestic and foreign intelligence data forever and process it for years to come.”
The exponential rise in public cameras has been the biggest cause for concern among citizens. Many cities across the U.S. are now outfitting city buses with cameras, vastly expanding the capabilities of existing technology to monitor citizen movements in public spaces. More than $300 million in federal grants have been provided to U.S. cities, allowing for the spread of cameras to cities big and small in all 50 states.
The report concludes that this aggregation of information by the private sector is by no means limited to contractors in the U.S., Egypt or Libya — the business of spying has become a multibillion dollar international industry.
“Across the world, mass surveillance contractors are helping intelligence agencies spy on individuals and ‘communities of interest’ on an industrial scale,” Spy Files reports.
The WikiLeaks Spy Files show which companies, like Northrop Grumman, are “making billions selling sophisticated tracking tools to government buyers, flouting export rules, and turning a blind eye to dictatorial regimes that abuse human rights.”
In response to the growing proliferation of surveillance, thousands of activists and affiliate organizations will participate in the International Day for Privacy Feb. 23, an online action likely to draw thousands of tweets, Facebook posts and correspondence in support of Internet freedom.
UN-US rift over Internet regulations
Although the U.S. is a willing participant in growing Internet surveillance, legislators have been hesitant to relinquish control to the United Nations Technical Body.
An international conference held in Dubai last month brought representatives from 191 countries and top industry executives to discuss this very possibility. The U.S. opposition was demonstrated by elected officials in both houses of the U.S. Congress condemning possible Internet regulation by the United Nations’ technical body, the International Telecommunications Union.
The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed a Senate resolution last month rejecting any regulation of the Internet by the United Nations.
Previous to this, proposed national legislation designed to curb Internet piracy through increased government surveillance was met with vociferous opposition from online activists and proponents of civil liberties.
The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) supported by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), drew the scorn of Wikipedia, Reddit and nearly 7,000 smaller Web sites that coordinated a service blackout to the proposed legislation on Jan. 18, 2012.
An estimated 160 million people read the Wikipedia banner decrying SOPA and announcing the 24 hour service blackout. The public outcry on Facebook and other social media sites created enough pressure to sideline the proposed bill.
Similarly, grassroots opposition to Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) appears to have stalled a vote on legislation that activists and Web site operators believe will give the government too much authority to monitor and control the Internet. To date, more than 115,000 Web sites have protested SOPA and PIPA.