Years before Edward Snowden leaked his first document, human rights lawyers and activists were concerned about a dramatic expansion in law enforcement and foreign intelligence agencies’ efforts to spy on the digital world. It had become evident that legal protections had not kept pace with technological developments – that the state’s practical ability to spy on the world had developed in a way that permitted it to bypass the functional limits that have historically checked its ability to spy.
The internet is a critical way to push for the progressive realisation of people’s rights – but, through communications surveillance, its potential to be used as a tool for collective, democratic action is slowly being eroded.
Using the 13 International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance as a basis, this Global Information Society Watch (GISWatch) considers the state of surveillance in 53 countries. Eight thematic reports frame the key issues at stake.