Is Canada joining the Surveillance Societies of the world? Not yet, perhaps, but we are on the way.
Each year since 1997, the US-based Electronic Privacy Information Center and the UK-based Privacy International have conducted a comprehensive survey of global privacy. The Privacy & Human Rights Report surveys developments in 70 countries, assessing the state of surveillance and privacy protection. The most recent report published in 2007, available at http://www.privacyinternational.org/phr.
In 2006, Privacy International decided to use this annual report as the basis for a ranking assessment of the state of privacy in all European Union countries together with eleven non-EU benchmark countries. The new 2007 global rankings extend the survey to 47 countries (from the original 37) and, for the first time, provide an opportunity to assess trends. PI has mapped the results and if current trends hold, we may all have to move to Greece to escape the prying eyes of government spies — which is pretty scary when you consider the less than democratic state of this birthplace of democracy over the last few decades — but I digress.
Privacy International observes “The 2007 rankings indicate an overall worsening of privacy protection across the world, reflecting an increase in surveillance and a declining performance of privacy safeguards.”
Canada, which in 2006 was described by PI as a country with “significant protections and safeguards” has slipped to the status of having “some safeguards but weakened protections.” While we seem to be moving, lockstep, with the rest of the countries surveyed, we still have a way to go before we join the category described by PI as an “Endemic Surveillance Society.”
Who are the “endemic surveillance societies?” They include China, Russia, the UK and the United States. Given Stephen Harper’s fabled love of all things American, we should be concerned.