Keynote speaker: Duncan Campbell

by Anne Adams


The use of surveillance to curtail our freedom so as to control and manipulate socially unacceptable behavior is not a modern day invention. Jeremy Bentham (1832) argued for control by surveillance, in the preface to his PANOPTICAN, whereby every person in a building is watched from a central tower. Although people were not watched all the time, they maintained their standards of behavior for fear of being watched. Fear would be maintained by examples being made of odd individuals to 'keep the others on their toes'. Over the past 25 years Duncan Campbell has shown us the frightening realities of modern day surveillance technologies. With the automation of surveillance technologies there are far more powerful possibilities available to unscrupulous individuals, organizations and governments. Relevant intelligence information can be provided on diplomatic, economic and scientific developments.

This presentation concerns what Duncan Campbell himself termed the, "lawless area of the surveillance of international communications." Specifically, a review is made of the ECHELON project, a highly automated system for processing global communication information. Duncan uncovered this project for the first time in 1988. In 1999 he produced a European report with the first documentary evidence for the continued existence of this system and its capabilities. This extensive system exists to access, intercept and process important global communications. Campbell suggested, at an interview during this conference, that the problem is that, "it is clearly only too easy in this new environment for the rivers of information to be accessed once the portholes are open." He also went on to add that now is the critical time to deal with these problems, "because if we don't get the right things... then our children and our children's children will turn round and say what was privacy."

This presentation also reviews the effectiveness of statues for protecting privacy in the light of advances in automated surveillance technologies. As Campbell argues, "there is no law controlling the international snooping of communications." He presents, in this talk, evidence indicating that governments are routinely exploiting communication intelligence for commercial gain.

Finally, when asked what he believed attendees would leave the talk remembering Campbell suggested, "I think that what I have to say and show will take most people to places that they didn't dream existed". He added that he hoped he would be able to share with his audience the "scale and the capacity of international surveillance" and that this should "underscore what people should do in terms of organizational and self protection in terms of leaching of information out of open communication systems."