Mobile devices, Planets and the Human Condition

The 'Surveillance Society' is already with us..

, posted: 20-Nov-2006 12:15

Thats right! - that is one of the points in the closing communique from the 28th international conference of data protection and Privacy commissioners.

but there is some good points in the communique,

about three quarters of the way through they list a number of points that all the commissioners came up with, which are quite pleasing, however my favourite quote is:

"Privacy and Data protection may in fact be as precious as the air we breathe: both are invisible, but when they are no longer available, the effects may be equally disastrous"

Absolute poetry. i love it. 

the points the commissioners raised are:

  1. Protection of citizens' privacy and personal data is vital for any democratic society on the same level as:
    1. Freedom of the press
    2. Freedom of Movement
    3. My favourite quote is around here.
  2. Commissioners should develop a new communication strategy in order to make the public and relevant stakeholders more aware of these rights and their importance.
    1. Commissioners should initiate powerful and long term awareness raising campaigns and measure the effects of these actions
  3. Commissioners should also communicate better
    1. about their own activities and make data protection more concrete.
      1. Full marks to our own privacy commission, and Commissioner who have a number of RSS feeds, which makes it nice and easy to keep up to date. (links at the bottom)
  4. Commissioners should assess their efficiency and effectiveness,
    1. this sentence bothers me, I was always told never EVER finish a statement with "Efficientcy and effectiveness" mainly because it means you dont need to justify the statement, however they have followed up with
    2. "adapt their practises"
    3. "should be granted sufficient powers and resources, but should also use them in a selective and pragmatic manner, while concentrating at serious and likely harms, or main risks facing individuals"
  5. Commissioners should reinforce their capacities in technological areas.
  6. Commissioners should restructure the internaitonal Conference
    1. to become a stronger voice on international issues and an unavoidable discussion partner for international initiatives with an incidence on data protection.
  7. Commissioners should support the need of an International convention
  8. Commissioners should promote the involvement of other stakeholders

The article starts off with:

The 'Surveillance Society' is already with us
we aren't quite at the orwellian 1984

Surveillance involves the purposeful, routine and systematic recording by technology of individuals’ movements and activities in public and private spaces. Everyday encounters with modern and developing technology which records, sorts and sifts personal information include:

  • systematic tracking, monitoring and recording of identities, movements and activities;
  • analysis of spending habits, financial transactions and other interactions;
  • ever-growing use of new technologies, such as automated video cameras, RFID etc;
  • monitoring of telephones, e-mails and internet use; and
  • monitoring of workplace activity.

while there is nothing really that surprising, everyone needs to take note and realise that these activities are going on, and privacy is becoming less and less.

I garantee in 5 years time it will be surprising when you call a company and they dont say "hello salutation Your surname How can I help" - because with the level of data mining and information broking that is going on so many places will have you on file that you have never heard of.

but you wont be able to complain as it will be in the terms and conditions of a company you gave your information to, who reserved the rights to change the T&Cs to allow them to provide your details to an associated company, who will then sell it all off after buying the bulk data.

Surveillance activities can be well-intentioned and bring benefits. So far the expansion of these activities has developed in relatively benign and piecemeal ways in democratic societies - not because governments or businesses necessarily wish to intrude into the lives of individuals in an unwarranted way. Some of these activities are necessary or desirable in principle - for example, to fight terrorism and serious crime, to improve entitlement and access to public services, and to improve healthcare.

But unseen, uncontrolled or excessive surveillance activities also pose risks that go much further than just affecting privacy

  • can foster a climate of suspicion
  • can undermine trust
  • stigmatise
  • risks of social exclusion
he collection and use of vast amounts of personal information by public and private organisations leads to decisions which directly influence peoples’ lives.

A systematic use of impact assessments should be adopted
Such assessments would include but be wider than privacy impat assessments.

  • Identifying social impact
  • identify opportunities for minimising the undesirable consequences for individuals and societ
Hang on a second!
shouldnt that be working to prevent the undesirable consequences? it is understandable that they will not be able to remove all the undesirable consequences - hence the use of of the word "minimise" but they should definitaley take a hard line here!

The issues are wide ranging and cannot be taken forward by data protection / privacy regulators alone.
- Good point, it needs to be everyone who cares about privacy which is what they say:
  • "Engagement should be a common cause for all who concerned about development"
to gaurd against unwarranted consequences.

Public trust and confidence is paramount.
"although much of the infrastructure of the surveillance society has been assembled for benign purposes,
Continued public trust cannot be taken for granted"

I like the fact they are admitting that, in current climes, its every man for themselves in protecting their privacy.

the comments continue on listing various moves that need to be done, along with the changing times and fast pace that technology is taking.

they talk about the initiative from Alex Turk, President of the French Commission Nationale de l'Informatique et des Libertés (CNIL) -
my next article will cover this.

The Commissioners reflected upon their own role and the challenges that these changes pose for them. Commissioners identified the following areas as necessary to allow them to rise to the challenges...See the beginning.

There is a conclusion along with welcoming the following Accreditation of Eight new members - the data protection authorities of:

* Andorra
*Canada - New Brunswick
*Canada - Northwest Territories
*Canado - Nunavut

*Resolution on conference organisational arrangements
*Resolution on privacy protection and search engines.

further information:

link: HERE

Other related posts:
Internet Censorship, Guilt by accusation, I'm Angry. very angry (S92a - etc)
Privacy laws get long overdue tidyup over Motorist Registration (NZ)
Thailand vs Youtube.... "team Google, world police"??

Comment by KJ, on 21-Nov-2006 12:03

"but you wont be able to complain as it will be in the terms and conditions of a company you gave your information to, who reserved the rights to change the T&Cs to allow them to provide your details to an associated company, who will then sell it all off after buying the bulk data." yep yep yep, that one of the bits that really piss me off... And yes I did read it to the end without nodding off - hence why I spotted the spelling mistake in one of your "8 new members" near the end.... :P

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