By Joe McNamee

Today on the 11th February digital rights organizations, civil-society groups, authors, and Internet users across six continents are protesting to demand an end to mass surveillance.

Last summer, NSA contractor Edward Snowden began releasing documents detailing the alarming intelligence gathering operations conducted by the US, British, and other partner nations. The revelations that mass surveillance by governments knows no bounds have galvanized people around the world, leading to condemnations from world leaders and a United Nations resolution based on 13 “Necessary and Proportionate” Principles to protect human rights and privacy. With global awareness of these issues at an all time high, the time is right for civil society to demand that representatives throughout Europe respect privacy as a fundamental and inalienable human right.

Actions scheduled throughout Europe include:

  • France: La Quadrature du Net will launch the website NSA Observer, an aggregation of public information about the NSA global surveillance programs, as well a short animation “Reclaim your Privacy” about privacy, mass surveillance, and the urgency to rethink our relationship with technology.
  • Poland: Panoptykon Foundation will send a letter to President Barack Obama demanding answers about the NSA’s massive collection of data and international cooperation between intelligence agencies, which affects Polish citizens as well as all Europeans. Panoptykon Foundation will increase pressure on the Polish government to finish answering 100 questions on surveillance that the coalition of Polish NGOs posed four months ago.
  • Netherlands: Bits of Freedom will call on Dutch citizens to join The Day We Fight Back and share the campaign to stop mass surveillance: bespiedonsniet.nl (“Don’t Spy On Us”).
  • United Kingdom: The UK’s leading privacy and free expression groups are launching the DontSpyOnUs.org.uk campaign, calling for organizations to help stop GCHQ’s mass surveillance programs.

Here’s what members of the Necessary and Proportionate Principles Coalition say about why they’re taking part in the Day We Fight Back:

Gus Hosein, Executive Director, Privacy International, United Kingdom:

For far too long, mass and intrusive government surveillance programs operated in the shadows, outside of the rule of law, and without democratic accountability. But expansive spying isn’t just a domestic problem. Surveillance at this scale threatens the rights of individuals in every corner of the world. The need for reform is urgent, but we can’t enact those reforms if we don’t make our governments understand that mass surveillance, operating beyond public scrutiny, threatens the foundations of democracy. People around the world on February 11 have an amazing opportunity to stand up, fight back, and demand that our privacy is respected and protected. By making our voices heard, we will take the next step toward real reform.”

Jérémie Zimmermann, spokesperson, La Quadrature du Net, France:

“We have a major challenge ahead. On one hand, we have to get these intelligence agencies under democratic control and scrutiny. On the other hand, now that trust in companies such as Google, Facebook, or Apple is forever broken, we need to reinvent our relationship to technology and take back control of the machine, rather than being controlled by it. It can only happen through free/libre software, decentralized architecture, end-to-end encryption, and profound social and cultural changes. Protecting our privacy means protecting our intimacy, the only space in which we are in full trust and can experiment with ourselves, with new ideas and opinions. It is the very definition of our humanities that is at stake.”

Jim Killock, Executive Director, Open Rights Group, United Kingdom:

“Mass surveillance is an existential threat to democratic governance. It is corrosive by creating possibilities of easy abuse that extend to every citizen’s lives at the whim of secret agencies. This is not just a question of accountability and transparency, but whether we are prepared to stand up for our future as a free society.”

Katarzyna Szymielewicz, Executive Director, Panoptykon Foundation, Poland:

“Mass surveillance is no longer a local or national problem. It has been enabled by international cooperation across jurisdictions and regardless of any legal standards. Cooperation of intelligence agencies, governments, and companies is the biggest challenge in fighting surveillance but also the reason why we need to get together for such a fight. This is also why Panoptykon Foundation asked 100 questions on surveillance to the Polish government but demanded some of the answers directly from President Obama.”

You can find out what events are happening in your country here.