Wednesday :: Jan 2, 2008

Privacy and Surveillance: U.S. ranked worst in democratic world


by Turkana

In Harper's, Scott Horton has the damning word:

What do Vladimir Putin, George W. Bush and Hu Jintao have in common? They are the heads of the three most significant nations whose people live under “endemic surveillance”—that is to say, whose governments have a penchant for aggressively spying on their own people. Let’s just call their realms Eurasia, Oceania and East Asia.

Privacy International and the Electronic Privacy Information Center together created a system for measuring nations' civil liberties. As Horton puts it, there is no surprise in learning that nations recently freed from Communism are most careful about protecting them. Except for Russia, of course. And, of course, the strong U.S. tradition of protecting civil liberties has been abandoned, under Bush.

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Horton refers to this Wired Magazine analysis. Among the trends Wired reports:

  • The 2007 rankings indicate an overall worsening of privacy protection across the world, reflecting an increase in surveillance and a declining performance on privacy safeguards.
  • The 2007 rankings show an increasing trend amongst governments to archive data on the geographic, communications and financial records of all their citizens and residents. This trend leads to the conclusion that all citizens, regardless of legal status, are under suspicion.
  • The privacy trends have been fueled by the emergence of a profitable surveillance industry dominated by global IT companies and the creation of numerous international treaties that frequently operate outside judicial or democratic processes.
  • Despite political shifts in the US Congress, surveillance initiatives in the US continue to expand, affecting visitors and citizens alike.
  • Greece, Romania, and Canada most zealously protect privacy. Malaysia, Russia, and China are the worst. The U.S.?

    In terms of statutory protections and privacy enforcement, the US is the worst ranking country in the democratic world. In terms of overall privacy protection the United States has performed very poorly, being out-ranked by both India and the Philippines and falling into the "black" category, denoting endemic surveillance.

    I'm most curious about being ranked last in the "democratic world." Because, as in British football leagues, it would seem being ranked last in a category risks falling out of it, altogether.

    The full reports can be found here. The U.S. report here.

    Turkana :: 9:04 AM :: Comments (5) :: Digg It!