Interception and monitoring of individuals' communications is becoming more widespread, more indiscriminate and more invasive, just as our reliance on electronic communications increases.
Nearly all major international agreements on human rights protect the right of individuals to be free from unwarranted surveillance. This guarantee has trickled down into national constitutional or legal provisions protecting the privacy of communications.
In most democratic countries, intercepts of oral, telephone and digital communications are initiated by law enforcement or intelligence agencies only after approval by a judge, and only during the investigation of serious crimes.
Yet government agencies continue to lobby for increased surveillance capabilities, particularly as technologies change. Communications surveillance has expanded to Internet and digital communications. In many countries, law enforcement agencies have required internet providers and telecommunications companies to monitor users’ traffic. Many of these activities are carried out under dubious legal basis and remain unknown to the public.