In response to the increased threat of terrorism, governments around the world have granted security services and law enforcement agencies significant new powers of surveillance, often with limited oversight.
There are few places in the world where an individual is as vulnerable as at the border of a foreign country. When travelling across the world, people are being subjected to multiple forms of tracking and profiling by unaccountable state agencies.
The mass retention of individuals' communications records, outside the context of any criminal investigation or business purpose, amounts to the compilation of dossiers on each and every one of us, our friends, family and colleagues.
Interception and monitoring of individuals' communications is becoming more widespread, more indiscriminate and more invasive, just as our reliance on electronic communications increases.
Corporations are collecting unprecedented levels of personal information on consumers – companies now know more about their customers than governments could ever dream of knowing about their citizens.
Effective legislation helps minimize monitoring by governments, regulate surveillance by companies and ensure that personal information is properly protected.
Some of the world’s most invasive surveillance systems are being deployed in countries where individuals are most at risk. Developing countries are considered growth markets for biometric systems, health informatics, visual surveillance and expansive communications surveillance technologies, and citizens of these countries tend to lack the legal and technical means to defend themselves.
New technologies have revolutionised the impact and effectiveness of development and humanitarian interventions, and their adoption is a key priority for modern development actors. However, their adoption raises new challenges for the protection and promotion of human rights, in particular the rights to privacy and the protection of personal data.
Genetic samples are some of the most sensitive forms of personal data. DNA holds the key to a person’s identity and as such must be protected with the utmost care.
Financial institutions handle huge amounts of important information about their customers, and they are increasingly being required to collect information that far exceeds their legitimate purposes in order to assist governments and companies to build profiles.
Freedom of expression and privacy are two sides of the same coin – and we need both for full participation in democratic society. Surveillance techniques that prevent individuals remaining anonymous when producing or accessing information both infringe privacy and have a chilling effect on free expression.
Protecting privacy involves watching the watchers. We use public information and freedom of information requests to monitor surveillance practices and policies, uses of new technology and the security of government-held information.
Human rights conventions and national constitutions almost universally call for the protection of the right to privacy – the challenge is ensuring that governments comply with this requirement, particularly with respect to new technologies and in countries that lack the rule of law.
Identity card programmes not only cost governments billions, but also give rise to significant human rights problems and potential miscarriages of justice
Surveillance cameras and facial recognition are used to monitor public and private spaces and to identify people. The effectiveness of this technology is up for debate, but it is nevertheless becoming both more pervasive and more invasive.