Modern field guide to security and privacy

Podcast: Government hacking v. human rights

On the latest edition of The Cybersecurity Podcast, digital privacy expert Amie Stepanovich discusses government hacking from a human rights perspective.

Danish Siddiqui/Reuters
People reflected on a phone as they attend a protest against what they say are attacks on India's low-caste Dalit community in Mumba in August.

The government can hack you ... legally. It sounds like a dystopian sci-fi novel, but all around the world, governments are increasingly breaking into personal computers and smartphones to carry out spy operations.

Yet Amie Stepanovich, who specializes in cybersecurity and privacy law at digital rights group Access Now, says most types of government hacking can violate international human rights. If targeted government hacking is absolutely necessary for law enforcement purposes, Ms. Stepanovich, who recently released a paper on this topic, says the government should adhere to strict human rights safeguards – including warning its hacking targets as soon as possible.

"Notice has to be given eventually, and as soon as practical, after the activity has occurred," she tells the podcast. "It can't go on that they hack a device and never inform the person they have done that. And, notice should extend beyond the specific target – these tools have huge ramifications for people in communication with the target."

Also on this episode, podcast cohosts Peter Singer from New America and Sara Sorcher from the Christian Science Monitor's Passcode discuss the role hacking has played in the American elections so far – and the challenges this kind of information warfare might pose well into the future.

Listen to this episode.

Follow all episodes: iTunes | Soundcloud | Stitcher

Follow the hosts: Peter W. Singer | Sara Sorcher 

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Podcast: Government hacking v. human rights
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today