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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.
For those interested in tracking the disintegration of civil rights as a global phenomenon and the simultaneous rise of massive national surveillance bureaucracies, we have a significant tool. Two NGOs, Privacy International, a UK privacy group, and the U.S.-based Electronic Privacy Information Center have compiled a system for measuring surveillance societies, rating various nations for their civil liberties records. In general they find, unsurprisingly, that nations recently liberated from Communism (excluding Russia) are those which most zealously guard civil liberties and attempt to contain surveillance of their populace. The U.S. had a strong tradition for protecting its citizenry from surveillance, which collapsed under George W. Bush. Here are the results:
Wired magazine summarizes some of the major conclusions:
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.
Concern over immigration and border control dominated the world agenda in 2007. Countries have moved swiftly to implement database, identity and fingerprinting systems, often without regard to the privacy implications for their own citizens
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.
The complete report can be accessed here.
More from Scott Horton:
Conversation — March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm
Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.
The new docudrama The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story (FX) isn’t really about Orenthal James Simpson. It’s about the trials that ran alongside his — those informal, unboundaried, court-of-public-opinion trials in which evidence was heard for and against the murder victims, the defense and the prosecution, the judge, the jury, and the Los Angeles Police Department, to say nothing of white and black America. History has freed us from suspense about Simpson’s verdict, so that the man himself (played here by Cuba Gooding Jr.) is less the tragic hero he seemed in the mid-Nineties than a curiously minor character. He comes to the center of our attention only once, in Episode 2, at the end of the lengthy Ford Bronco chase scene — which in real life was followed by a surreal cavalcade of police cars and media helicopters, as well as an estimated 95 million live viewers — when Simpson repeatedly, and with apparent sincerity, apologizes for taking up so much of so many people’s time. It is an uncannily ordinary moment of social decorum, a sort of could-you-please-pass-the-salt gesture on a sinking Titanic, in which Simpson briefly becomes more than just an archetype.
Amount an auditor estimated last year that Oregon could save each year by feeding prisoners less food:
Kentucky is the saddest state.
An Italian economist was questioned on suspicion of terrorism after a fellow passenger on an American Airlines flight witnessed him writing differential equations on a pad of paper.
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“Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'”