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'Don't get caught in an endless cat-and-mouse game with NSA'

Published time: June 06, 2014 11:17
Reuters/Larry Downing

We need political measures to update our laws to make sure that adequate checks and balances are in place to prevent a race with spying agencies, in which they will have the upper hand, CEO of the World Wide Web Foundation Anne Jellema told RT.

RT:Your organization strives for everyone's right to access the internet but what is its position towards internet snooping?

Anne Jellema: We believe that warrantless mass surveillance conducted in secret under laws made and enforced in secret can never be acceptable, and it undermines the very fabric of the democratic society. It’s a serious violation of basic human rights.

RT: How global is the problem of mass surveillance? Does it concern only the big powers like the US and Europe?

AJ: We don’t know that, but we do know from our own research in WebIndex that 94 percent of countries that we surveyed did not meet the best practice standards for controls over governments' power to spy on citizens, and we also know that many governments around the world, not just the US, have been rapidly expanding their capability to spy on their citizens digitally, and of course that includes the BRICS countries. When we talk about the problem of mass surveillance we need to understand that it involves many governments around the world and all governments are interested in getting their hands on more data. It’s up to us, the citizens, to make sure that there are adequate checks and balances on the states' power to spy on us.

RT: Do you think governments will ever reconsider their policies on surveillance?

AJ: We believe it is possible and we are encouraged by the recent steps in the US towards legislative reform, which are largely because of popular pressure. They don’t go nearly far enough but it’s really just the beginning, and that’s why we have started the WebWe1 campaign to push for a digital bill of rights in every country around the world that would protect our freedom of expression and our privacy online, as well as our right to access the internet in the first place.

RT: There is a world-wide campaign called Reset the Net, which urges site owners and software developers to use encryption and anti-spy software. Can that help?

AJ: We are very supportive of the need for companies to improve encryption and for users to take whatever measures they can to protect themselves. We think that it is not enough. We know that the NSA was able to break encryption; we know that they will continue to try to break encryption even as encryption is improved. We don’t want to get caught in an endless cat and mouse game in which the spy agencies are trying to get one step ahead of the technology. We know that they will probably win that race. So that’s why we also need political measures to update our laws to make sure that adequate checks and balances are in place to prevent unnecessary disproportional surveillance that is becoming a norm. So both the political and the technical solution will be necessary, and unless these two go hand-in-hand the fear that Edward Snowden expressed that nothing will change is very likely to come true. We don’t believe it’s all inevitable; we were inspired by many examples of citizen action around the world to reclaim the Web as the space for the people, not a playground for spies.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.