Watching the watchers: A global monitor of the information society since 2007

By Leila Nachawati Rego for APCNews

MADRID, Spain, 21 May 2015

GISWatch 2014 coverGISWatch 2014 cover

The Global Information Society Watch (GISWatch) is one of APC’s flagships, a project that we consider especially relevant in the field of internet rights. A process as much as a publication, GISWatch aims to build policy analysis skills and methodologies into the work of civil society organisations in the field of ICT for development, democracy and social justice. Today, it makes us very happy to announce that our latest GISWatch report on surveillance has exceeded 10,000 page hits to the main report, becoming the most read in the history of GISWatch.

Within the main report, the most accessed thematic article is Unmasking the Five Eyes’ Global Surveillance Practices, which explains the most concerning surveillance capabilities developed by intelligence agencies. Country reports Eyes on New Zealand, which focuses on this country’s critical role in the powerful international intelligence alliance known as the “Five Eyes”, and the 2014 special report on Turkey also got outstanding access rates.

Local platform for advocacy


GISWatch 2014 has been launched nationally in various countries and is increasingly serving as a platform for advocacy around internet rights. While each country has its own specific issues, the reports’ findings show common challenges in the field of surveillance, such as a lack of legislation to protect privacy, the sale of user data by private companies, and the scarce use of encryption technologies.

An outstanding example of internet rights advocacy through GISWatch is our local partner in Mexico, which reached the Federal Telecommunications Institute (FTI) to incorporate civil society views on how telecom operators should collaborate with justice and security agencies nationally. This collaboration is aimed at ensuring that FTI guidelines are mindful of human rights standards.

Evolving in line with the challenges and tensions of internet rights

The increased attention to and impact of the GISWatch publications is a milestone in a process that started in 2007, when we published our first report focusing on Participation. After that, we published Access to Infrastructure, Access to Online Information and Knowledge, ICTs and Environmental Sustainability, Internet rights and Democratisation I and II, The Internet and Corruption, Communications Rights Ten Years after WSIS, Women’s Rights, Gender and ICT, and Internet rights that went wrong in Turkey.

The theme of the reports changes every year, in line with the evolving challenges and tensions in the internet rights field. This year’s edition will be dedicated to “Sexual Rights and the Internet”, in the context of increasing surveillance, censorship and threats of violence against non-normative gender and sexual identities.