In June 2013, whistleblower Edward Snowden, exposed how governments are invading our privacy on a massive scale. He showed the world how intelligence agencies are working together to spy on our emails, web searches, calls, and much more.
Within the documents he leaked, Snowden also revealed how governments are willing sharing our personal data. The USA has secret pacts to share intelligence with at least 41 countries.
With the UK a key US ally, right in the middle of some of these agreements - the 'Five Eyes' alliance and the Europe Pact - and the confirmation today that GCHQ was spying on Amnesty International and holding our data, just how far might sensitive emails from human rights activists have spread?
Who shares data with the US and its allies?
The ‘Five Eyes’ alliance
For 70 years, the UK, USA, New Zealand, Canada and Australia have formed an integrated global surveillance network, exchanging intercepted communications with each other by default.
For 33 years, the Five Eyes have co-operated with this European club, providing technology in return for access to their networks, and exchanging some intercepted communications.
Special allies in the Asia-Pacific region
Across the region, the Five Eyes are providing technology and assistance. They may also be exchanging some intercepted communications, but the arrangement is shrouded in secrecy
Little is known about the extent and scale of the links between the Five Eyes and other third-party countries, but the existence of the relationship suggests co-operation in intercepting and sharing communications.
Cosy deals and secret clubs
The top table of intelligence-sharing and the most secretive club in the business is known as the ‘Five Eyes’ alliance, which includes the UK, USA, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. The NSA also has cosy deals with other countries in Europe, as well as with countries across Asia and beyond.
But why does this matter? Because most of us don’t want foreign governments to be able to spy on us. Our recent poll showed that, across the globe, people object strongly to mass surveillance by the USA.
These dodgy pacts underline the danger of mass surveillance. Governments are not only intercepting our communications within their borders, but also sending them around the world to other governments. The private arrangements are so extensive and secretive that we really can't be sure where else our data goes.
What’s more, governments have also been applying laws so they can spy on people from other countries more easily. We need to end these discriminatory laws, and tell governments to protect people’s privacy equally, whether they’re at home or abroad.