Expanding Surveillance Powers Curtail Freedoms Across the Globe

Expanding Surveillance Powers Curtail Freedoms Across the Globe

Rights group Privacy International has raised serious concerns over the granting of expansive new powers to intelligence agencies in several countries around the world, often in the name of cybersecurity and the fight against terrorism, but without accompanying safeguards.

The seven reports, submitted to the 27th session of the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review, were developed in collaboration with partner organizations in India, South Africa, Morocco, Tunisia, Brazil, the Philippines and Indonesia.

They paint a picture of governments expanding their powers of surveillance but doing so with policies and practices that “fail to meet human rights standards and principles of legality, necessity, and proportionality, and do not provide for judicial authorisation or independent oversight”, according to advocacy officer Alexandrine Pirlot de Corbion.

She explained that in Tunisia, the Philippines, and Indonesia, new powers have been granted to fight terrorism without appropriate judicial or independent oversight.

In South Africa, India, Morocco, Tunisia and the Philippines, the intelligence agencies are “largely unaccountable and continue to operate in the shadows”, while in Morocco, Brazil, India, South Africa and the Philippines, technology is being purchased to enable “mass, unlawful, and indiscriminate surveillance”.

This picture comes amid “moves to limit encryption and the right to anonymity online” in several countries; something which is particularly concerning given that governments are already using their newly expanded powers to crack down on journalists, human rights defenders and civil society, Pirlot de Corbion wrote.

“Across the countries under review, we also reported on the deployment of biometric identification systems, mandatory SIM card registration and CCTV, as well as new uses of technology such as smart cities and other data-intensive systems of governance,” she added.

“Worryingly, we found that data protection regimes have yet to be adopted in Indonesia, Brazil and India. Even where these frameworks exist (such as in Morocco and South Africa), they are not effectively applied.”

These concerns are, of course, not just applicable to developing world countries. Thanks to the Snoopers’ Charter, the UK has granted its security services what has been described by Edward Snowden as "the most extreme surveillance in the history of western democracy".

Source: Information Security Magazine