The mystifying case of Ola Bini, a Swedish data privacy activist and associated of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, has been shrouded in mystery since the day he was arrested in Quito, Ecuador on April 11. His arrest took place on the very same day as Assange was forcibly taken from the Ecuadorian Embassy in the United Kingdom, inevitably raising questions about whether Bini was being held for reasons to do with his friendship with the WikiLeaks founder and whether the United States was involved in the case in some form.
Bini, who wasn’t charged with a crime initially, was accused via Facebook of being involved in a leak of documents that revealed that the right-wing president of Ecuador, Lenin Moreno, had several offshore bank accounts.While the activist was released after two months in an Ecuadorian prison under terrible conditions, Bini is still fighting to maintain his freedom.
Speaking with Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer, Director of Strategy at the Electronic Frontier Foundation Danny O’Brien discusses why Bini’s case is so important to follow, despite a general lack of media attention that’s been given to his arrest. O’Brien personally went to Ecuador to visit Bini on behalf of the EFF in order to learn more about the case and advocate for the Swede’s rights.
“Journalists, lawyers, human rights lawyers, human rights defenders, sort of viewed broadly, are often the canaries in the coal mines in authoritarian or veering authoritarian regimes,” O’Brien tells the Truthdig Editor in Chief in the latest installment of “Scheer Intelligence.” “I think many governments recognize that if you can either tug it, or silence, or just intimidate and chill, the key journalists or the prominent public defenders, then you have a huge sort of multiplier leverage effect on opposition groups, or groups fighting for justice in those countries.
“In the last few years,” O’Brien continues, “I think that governments around the world have recognized that technologists also fall into this category, or particular kinds of technologists.”
Scheer, whose most recent book “They Know Everything About You,” is on mass data collection, highlights the threat that activists like Bini pose to the powers that be at a time in which big data translates to a mechanism for widespread control.
“You call him a world leader in trying to build safe places where people can communicate without being subject to government surveillance,” Scheer tells O’Brien. “And even though some people have a kinder view of the U.S. government, after all, we’re talking about a wide world that has to survive in even more overtly controlling environments, and explicitly totalitarian and authoritarian societies.”
Through his work at the EFF, an organization that has members from all parts of the political spectrum and advocates for free speech and privacy in the digital age, O’Brien has come to a harrowing conclusion that lies at the core of Bini’s case: governments around the world are “the most clear and present threat to people’s privacy and security online.”
Listen to the full discussion between Scheer and O’Brien as they discuss the details of Bini’s case and the origins and importance of the Electronic Frontier Foundation in our day and age.