Civil liberty campaigners have been demonstrating across Europe under the motto "Freedom, not fear" against what they see as a Big Brother approach to surveillance. The largest protest was in the German capital Berlin.
The participants of mass rallies in Berlin and throughout Europe are from all over the political spectrum, but their demands are the same – give people back their privacy. Protestors claim they cannot trust the governments which monitor their lives, complaining of a lack of transparency in the way information is used.
They are also protesting against the collection of data with CCTV cameras and other monitoring devices, as well as creating national databases on the private lives of citizens.
Today, sensitive data collection happens not only nationally, but also on behalf of the European Union. Protestors say that the Stockholm Program action plan includes plans to join European databases, and that is alarming.
”Our position is to say that security and freedom walk hand in hand,” said Leena Simon, organizer of the rally in Berlin. “They do not oppose to each other.”
Those rallying express the common opinion that someone could take private information and incorrectly use it.
Under the EU´s Stockholm programme, implemented last year, European countries will have to input almost all key data about their citizens into a giant central database.
The information will include finger prints, financial records, and even personal online data.
Interpol will also be able to use the latest satellite surveillance technology to trace any citizen anywhere in the European Union.
“We gradually lose control of our lives and it is handed over to algorithms and databases,” claims one of the rally’s organizers, Rena Tangens. “And you will not be asked in the future what you want to do. You can’t decide yourself, but other people will decide who will have access to these databases.”
Andrej Holm is an urban sociologist. But the German government suspected he was a terrorist.
He was followed, his phones were tapped, and his family´s emails read.
He was even arrested, before being released without charge.
“You call somebody, and you can hear the policeman’s voice – “she probably means this and that”. That drives you completely crazy,” said Andrej Holm’s partner, Anne Roth. “If you don’t know if there is tapping going on in the bedroom or the bathroom, and you have this feeling there is always somebody there. It is really terrible.”
But the government insists these measures are necessary to fight increasingly tech-savvy terrorists and criminals.
It claims it has no desire to snoop on those who have not broken the law and some have accused the protestors of politics.
“The parties that are demonstrating now are the ones who implemented these laws when in power. This is something they do just to show that they are the opposition,” states Uwe Meenen from the National Democratic Party of Germany.
The demonstrators are waiting for a response from the authorities to a petition calling for an end to all existing central employment, education and travel databases.
They also want a freeze on any new ones.
It looks like demonstrators in Germany are not likely to get what they want from the government today, but as technology advances these protests are likely to become more widespread.
That would make it much harder for governments to impose these measures on its citizens without consultation from the top down.