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The National Surveillance World

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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:

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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.

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