As I hopped onto the metro at Barcelona’s Diagonal station last week, I couldn’t shake the uneasy feeling of being followed. While I’m sure my fears were unfounded, listening to the stories of campaigners targeted with surveillance had obviously gotten to me. But that, in some ways, is the point. Surveillance is as much a tool of intimidation as it is about intelligence gathering, and its effects ripple out beyond those directly targeted.
The impact is especially acute in the digital age. States can monitor internet search histories, and tap into Big Tech’s surveillance economy, capturing our personal data from apps and smart devices. Using mercenary spyware, governments can turn dissenters’ phones against them, switching on the camera and mic to secretly listen into their lives.
This Big Story starts in my new home of Catalonia, as I explore the impact of two intrusive surveillance operations – police spies and spyware abuse – on Catalan civil society. Has a chilling effect taken hold, or are campaigners fighting back? In these pages we look beyond privacy rights, instead thinking of surveillance as a tool of social control – one used to stifle dissent by autocracies and democracies alike.
But there are also practical tips and stories of resistance: from activists living under the junta’s oppressive gaze in Myanmar, to campaigners in LA fighting to abolish racist police surveillance.
Elsewhere, Natasha Ion reports from Tunisia on how people are taking on the polluting phosphate industry, and Pranay Somayajula explores how the Indian government is weaponizing tourism in Kashmir.
Bethany Rielly for the New Internationalist co-operative.
Since seizing power in 2021, Myanmar’s military junta has expanded its use of surveillance to hunt down and jail its critics. Preeti Jha reports on the methods it employs and how anti-coup activists are adapting to the shrinking space for dissent.
Israel is at the forefront of the booming spyware industry that threatens human rights, press freedom and democracy worldwide. Antony Loewenstein examines spyware’s role in Israel’s occupation of Palestine, and why governments are failing to reign in its insidious spread.
In Los Angeles, a group of activists are standing up against police surveillance of their neighbourhoods. Bethany Rielly speaks to Hamid Khan and Matyos Kidane of the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition about what it means to take on one of the US’s most powerful forces.
The urban areas surrounding Paris are often considered a symptom – or cause – of the failure of France’s social policies. Cole Stangler speaks to residents of the banlieues, and finds exploitation and division – but a spirit of resistance too.