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Privacy in the Developing World

Building capacity and conducting research across the developing world.

We are living in a pivotal moment for the right to privacy in developing countries and emerging democracies. With new technologies empowering people around the world, and altering our relationships with governments and the corporate sector, strong legal frameworks are required to ensure that rights are adequately protected.

The complex process of negotiating privacy within this context is especially fraught in developing countries. It is here that technologies have the potential to be at their most transformative, by giving individuals the ability to access to information, express themselves, and participate in local and global discussions in unprecedented ways.

However, even as new technologies and capabilities flood into developing countries, the technical knowledge necessary to design legislative frameworks remains in short supply. At the same time, international regulatory consensus has yet to emerge around issues of data protection, and regional agreements remain in flux, depriving policymakers in developing countries of strong guidance and best practice upon which to base their own regulatory frameworks.

Consequently, developing countries are emerging as some of the world’s worst privacy violators: spying on their citizens, conducting extensive surveillance without a legal basis, actively censoring the internet, and failing to protect the privacy of personal data and digital communications. Such practices persistently violate the right to privacy while also threatening the enjoyment of other human rights. As the right to privacy becomes more and more embattled across the developing world, there is an urgent need to educate citizens and policy-makers about fortifying legal protections.

Privacy International is working to strengthen the advocacy capabilities and communication skills of civil society, and provide them with resources to ensure that governments are held to account, corporate influence is exposed, and citizens are empowered to claim their rights. In addition to conducting and supporting research and policy engagement,  we also conduct advocacy and intervene in cases in national, regional and international human rights fora to advance the right to privacy.

Our research and engagement agenda

Privacy International currently works with partner organisations in 17 countries across Africa, Asia, and Latin America to conduct research in developing countries directed at the following objectives:

  1. To identify the state of privacy protections in partner countries, and comparable standards and best practices, in order to facilitate policy engagement efforts designed to encourage the adoption, strengthening and  implementation of data protection frameworks.
  2. To understand the design and operation of different communications regimes, and to uncover surveillance practices, to socialise norms of  privacy in communications and advocate for legislative and regulatory  protections in communications systems.
  3. To establish the appropriate legal frameworks to implement advanced surveillance techniques within the confines of the rule of law.
  4. To uncover the nature and operation of local intelligence services, and advocate for the strengthening of oversight mechanisms.
  5. To reveal that measures taken in the name of development and security may lead to the quashing of dissent, the violation of sexual and reproductive rights, and the entrenchment of social divides.
  6. To critically analyse the state of privacy protections in public service delivery, with a particular focus on e-health systems and social protection programmes.
  7. To extend existing research and advocacy efforts to new countries and regions where ID and biometrics is emerging as a key topic of public discourse.

Click here to read more about our global research agenda.

Our partners

Click here to find out more about Privacy International's partner organisations and academics in developing countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Our international advocacy efforts

Privacy International works in national, regional and international human rights fora to advocate for stronger protections for privacy in the developing world. Some of our initiatives include:

Privacy in the Developing World

Event
Friday, November 29, 2013 - 09:00
Location: 
Universidad de San Andres, Facultad de Derecho, sede campus Victoria Vito Dumas 284, Victoria Buenos Aires, Argentina, Room Agardy in Edificio Mario Hirsch.

On 29 November at the Universidad de San Andrés in Buenos Aires, Privacy International along with our local partners at Privacy LatAm will be hosting a conference, Data Protection in Latin America: The Next Decade. The program will cover government surveillance and data protection, focusing on data protection agencies in Latin America, international data flows and regulations in Latin America, the right to be forgotten, and cloud computing in the region.

RSVP necessary?: 
No
Press release

Below is a joint statement from Privacy International and Bytes for All.

This Friday, 27 September, marks the conclusion of the 24th session of the UN Human Rights Council, a session which has, for the first time, seen issues of internet surveillance in the spotlight. Privacy International and Bytes for All welcome the attention given at the Human Rights Council to this issue. However, we are concerned about developments which took place that threaten privacy rights and freedom of expression, especially because these alarming suggestions are masked as solutions to address the increase in State surveillance.

In the media
Publisher: 
The Express Tribune
Publication date: 
20-Sep-2013
Original story link: 

With this in mind, a collection of civil society organisations, including Bolo Bhi, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Access, Article 19, Privacy International, Association for Progressive Communications, Human Rights Watch and Reporters Without Borders, presented the 13 Principles in a Human Rights Council side event today. The meeting was organized by the UN member States of Austria, Germany, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland and Hungary.

Countries: 
In the media
Publisher: 
Inter Press Service
Publication date: 
13-Sep-2013
Author(s): 
Emilio Godoy
Original story link: 

“The issue is on the radar now more than ever due to Edward Snowden’s revelations and the recent developments,” said Carly Nyst, head of international advocacy at Privacy International (PI), a UK-based registered charity that defends and promotes the right to privacy across the world.

Countries: 
Press release

Civil society organisations today called upon the members of the Human Rights Council to assess whether national surveillance laws and activities are in line with their international human rights obligations.

The Snowden revelations have confirmed that governments worldwide continue to expand their spying capabilities, at home and abroad. Widespread surveillance is being conducted in violation of individuals’ rights to privacy and free expression, and is seldom regulated by strong legal frameworks that respect human rights.

With this in mind, a coalition of civil society organisations today launched the “International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance,” a set of standards that interpret States’ human rights obligations in light of new technologies and surveillance capabilities. The Principles are endorsed by over 260 civil society organisations around the world, and for the first time set out an evaluative framework for assessing surveillance practices in the context of international human rights law.

Report
16-Sep-2013

Privacy International is grateful to the students and staff of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Faculty of Law Clinical Legal Education Centre, for providing research assistance to this paper.

The advent of new technologies and the Internet have provided new challenges to long-standing human rights norms. By facilitating increased State surveillance and intervention into individuals’ private lives, the spread of digital technologies has created a serious need for States to update their understandings and regulation of surveillance and modify their practices to ensure that individuals’ human rights are respected and protect.

Accordingly, in July 2013, Privacy International, in conjunction with the Electronic Fronteir Foundation, Access and a range of civil society organisations and academic experts, launched the International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance. The Principles articulate what international human rights law – which binds every country across the globe – requires of governments when conducting surveillance in the digital age.

Event
Friday, September 20, 2013 - 12:00 to 14:00
Location: 
Palais des Nations, Conference Room XXI Geneva, Switzerland
Contact person: 

For more information, please contact Carly Nyst at Carly@privacy.org | 44-0-7788-286-389

RSVP necessary?: 
No
Blog
Carly Nyst's picture

Privacy International will soon be launching a research and advocacy project entitled Aiding Surveillance that will focus on the role of international development, humanitarian and funding organisations in promoting privacy and data protection. Click here to join our mailing list to find out more about this project and all of PI's activities.

The development agenda is heralding a new cure-all for humanitarian and development challenges – data.

Blog
Carly Nyst's picture

For some time now there has been a need to update understandings of existing human rights law to reflect modern surveillance technologies and techniques. Nothing could demonstrate the urgency of this situation more than the recent revelations confirming the mass surveillance of innocent individuals around the world.

Blog
Philippe M. Frowd's picture

In the wake of recent revelations about the NSA’s extensive surveillance powers over foreigners and American citizens, an ever-fuller picture of mass surveillance is being drawn in the US, the UK, and across the Western world. But what about clandestine surveillance practices in African states? How do they approximate or differ from those we’ve heard so much about in the last few weeks? A recent case from West Africa can help us begin to answer these questions.

In March, Benin saw its own wiretapping scandal involving familiar elements: accusations of executive overreach and a telecoms company accused of collaborating with state surveillance. 

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