Freedom Not Fear: Creating a Surveillance-Free Internet

Katitza Rodriguez

Privacy rights face a crisis. Governments around the world have been taking overreaching, fear-based surveillance measures against essential online freedoms. Organizing an international resistance demands a complex understanding of both the latest online surveillance trends and of long-standing threats to privacy.

Every year, Freedom Not Fear continues to organize a broad international protest against these threats to our civil liberties, and challenge the hyperbolic rhetoric of fear that permeates the security and privacy debate. This September 14th-17th, concerned European Internet users will descend on Brussels to participate in an international week of action against invasive surveillance initiatives. Events will also be staged in Luxembourg and Sydney. Freedom Not Fear’s slogan: Stop the surveillance mania!

This year’s street protest in Brussels has been announced for Saturday 15th at 11 a.m. Brussels time. The BarCamp schedule for the long weekend in Brussels is available here. There will be aCCTV spotting game in the city center.

EFF is joining the campaign to call attention to pervasive global surveillance measures and to spotlight the movements that have sprung up to oppose them. EFF will be posting articles regularly over the next week, starting today. You can follow our series by subscribing to EFF on Twitter,, Facebook, Google Plus or by checking back to this page. We’ll be listing the articles below.

Freedom Not Fear Series:

1. Freedom Not Fear: CCTV Surveillance Cameras In Focus

2. Freedom Not Fear: Sydney Edition

3. Freedom Not Fear: David Lyon on Contemporary Surveillance

4. Freedom Not Fear: Fresh Challenges Against Mass Untargeted Surveillance


The Freedom Not Fear movement emerged out of widespread European outrage at the EU’s 2006 Mandatory Data Retention Directive — an EU law requiring ISPs and telcos to store, for a minimum of six months to two years, data such as who communicates with whom, when, where, and how. In practice, data has often been stored for longer. Large databases continue to be fed with personal data on millions of innocent Europeans, threatening anonymity, privacy, and the confidentiality of journalists’ sources. 

Since its origins in 2008, Freedom Not Fear has developed the general message: fundamental rights like privacy, free expression, due process, and democratic participation are jeopardized when reactionary, fear-driven surveillance systems penetrate our societies.
Editor’s Note: Here is the list of demands from the Freedom Not Fear website:

1. Cutbacks on surveillance measures

  • abolition of the blanket logging of our communication and locations (data retention)
  • abolition of the blanket collection of our biometric data as well as RFID passports
  • protection from surveillance at the workplace by introducing effective labour data protection laws
  • no permanent student ID numbers
  • no handing over of personal information without cause; no European wide standardized state run collection of information (Stockholm Program)
  • no information exchange with the US or any other state lacking effective data protection laws
  • abolition of permanent CCTV surveillance and ban of all behavioral detection techniques
  • no blanket registration of passengers traveling with airlines, trains, busses or by boat (PNR data)
  • no secret searches of private computer systems, neither online nor offline
  • no centralised storage of personal healthcare data or forwarding of any such information to the USA or other nations
  • no systematic surveillance of financial transactions data or similar mass data analysis in the EU (SWIFT)
  • no automated registration of vehicle number plates and locations

2. Evaluation of existing surveillance powers

  • We call for an independent review of all existing surveillance powers as to their effectiveness, proportionality, costs, harmful side-effects and alternative solutions.
  • We particularly call on the European parliament to immediately re-evaluate existing and planned projects on interior security that restrict fundamental rights of the people in Europe.

3. Moratorium on new surveillance powers

  • Following the “arms race” in security measures over the past few years, we demand an immediate stop to new interior security laws that further restrict civil liberties.

4. Ensure freedom of expression, dialogue and information on the Internet

  • safeguard net neutrality with binding laws
  • keep the Internet free, unfiltered and uncensored, without blocking lists or pre-publication controls, neither by state institutions nor by Internet service providers
  • no Internet disconnection policies (“three strikes”, “graduated response”)
  • outlaw installation of filtering infrastructures on ISP networks
  • content deletion must require an order by an independent and impartial judge, the right to legal recourse must be ensured
  • establish a digital Human Rights Charter for the 21st century, with global protections of digital civil rights
  • introduction of an unlimited right to quote multimedia content, which nowadays is indispensable for public debate in democracies
  • protection of internet platforms for preserving the free expression of opinion (participatory websites, forums, comments on blogs etc.), which nowadays is threatened by inadequate laws encouraging self-censorship (chilling effect)

5. Preservation of human rights

  • We urge every government, every parliament and every court to keep human rights as the highest legally protected interest, to align all acts and decisions to this principle, and not to abandon this for any other cause.

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