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Stephen Fry calls spying on citizens ‘squalid and rancid’ at Don’t Spy on Us Day of Action in London

The performer Stephen Fry condemned the government’s failure to act over the Snowden revelations at the start of the Don’t Spy on Us Day of Action in London today.

In a pre-recorded video, Fry said that using the fear of terrorism, "is a duplicitous and deeply wrong means of excusing something as base as spying on the citizens of your own country”.

Marking the anniversary of the start of the Snowden revelations, the Day of Action is the biggest privacy event of 2014, with over 500 people attending the conference at Shoreditch Town Hall.  Speaking at the event are high profile experts in technology, security and human rights, from all over the world. They include Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales who said: "The tide is beginning to turn as the public comes to understand just how broken the surveillance state is.”

Author and co-founder of the Open Rights Group, Cory Doctorow said: “Freedom from surveillance is essential to freedom itself. The freedom to think, to speak and to have discourse without fear of reprisal or judgement is at the core of democracy itself.”

Security technologist and author, Bruce Schneier said: “We have to choose between surveillance or security: an internet that is vulnerable to all attackers or an internet that is secure for all users. In our interconnected world, security is more important.

The day of action was organised by the Don’t Spy on Us Campaign, a coalition of privacy, free expression and digital rights organisations, that is calling for the government to put an end to mass surveillance by GCHQ.

Don’t Spy on Us is calling for:

  • an inquiry to report before the next general election to investigate the extent to which the law has failed

  • new legislation that will make the security agencies accountable to our elected representatives.

  • judges not the Home Secretary to decide when spying is justified

  • an end to mass surveillance in line with our 6 principles (No surveillance without suspicion, Transparent laws not secret laws, Judicial not political authorisation, Effective democratic oversight, The right to redress, A secure web for all).

Thomas Hughes, Executive Director, ARTICLE 19:

“All of us have a right to free expression and a right to privacy, but these are violated by arbitrary mass surveillance programmes that assume guilt over innocence. If the UK, which prides itself on being an open and democratic nation, continues to carry out mass surveillance on this scale, it gives carte blanche to oppressive regimes to keep spying on their citizens, restricting the space for free expression.”

Emma Carr, acting director of Big Brother Watch:

“On the first anniversary of the spying revelations, we call on the Government to publicly recognise that the UK’s surveillance law urgently needs reviewing and that the oversight mechanisms need strengthening. Without affirmative action the Government will certainly find that the general public’s faith in politicians to properly monitor how the security agencies are using surveillance powers will diminish. The law is out of date, the oversight is weak and the reporting of what happens is patchy at best. The public is right to expect better and it is high time that the Government stops burying its head in the sand and accept that the current status quo must change.”

Jo Glanville, Director, English PEN:

"The protection of the right to a private life is crucial for freedom of expression.  None of us can freely exchange or record information and ideas without the expectation of privacy.  Its been a year since we found out that GCHQ has been engaging in blanket, unwarranted surveillance and our politicians have conspicuously failed to address our concerns or to protect our rights.  They need to act now."

Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty:

“The game is up and the authorities busted on blanket surveillance pursued without democratic debate let alone legal authority. Now those in power need to know that we care. Events like ‘Don’t Spy On Us’ are an important part of demonstrating that fundamental breaches of trust have consequences.”

Jim Killock, Open Rights Group:

"We’ve had a year of inaction, delay and obfuscation from the  government. They can’t avoid answering these questions forever. They’re undermining everyone’s confidence in the security services, parliament and the technologies we use everyday."

Gus Hosein, Executive Director of Privacy International:

Secret surveillance is an anathema to a democratic society, as no real debate can take place without an informed public. The Snowden documents have been critical in sparking this debate, and we must now advocate for laws that make the State’s actions transparent, subject to independent authorisation and effective oversight, and outline clear legal frameworks in accordance with democratic principles.