This report offers a ground-level view of some of the ways surveillance, and digital electronic surveillance in particular, is impacting on the lives of citizens and residents in ten countries in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe and the Middle East.
In the United States, a Marine Corps veteran tries to board a plane and learns he is on a secret no-fly list, apparently based on innocuous private email communications. In Israel, state security agents summon peaceful political activists for ‘warning conversations’ that make clear their lives and communications are being monitored.
In Russia, a respected human rights advocate learns after repeated detentions that he is listed in the “human rights activists” section of the national surveillance database.
In Canada, a conscientious judge discovers that his country’s intelligence services have been circumventing the law and the courts to spy on Canadian citizens.
In Argentina, the investigation of its worst terrorist attack included illegal surveillance and intelligence activities to cover up the truth, leaving the attack unsolved to this day.
In India, a journalist on the brink of exposing government surveillance of opposition politicians becomes the target of surveillance himself.
In Hungary, the residents of a multiethnic neighbourhood in Budapest find themselves living under the gaze of cameras that can recognise their faces.
In Ireland, the office of the independent ombudsman charged with overseeing the country’s national police suspects it has become the target of national police surveillance.
In Kenya, a radical imam is gunned down on the street, and investigations point to state-sanctioned death squads operating on the basis of information gathered through transnational intelligence sharing.
In South Africa, the head of an internationally renowned environmental organisation is the subject of a request for “specific security assessments” from a foreign government to the South African government, and the South African organisation Legal Resources Centre (LRC) learns that it has been subject to unlawful surveillance by the United Kingdom’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).
Separately, these stories describe concrete instances in which governments have used surveillance to violate civil and human rights. Together, they challenge the notion that digital and more traditional surveillance operations are harmless intrusions and that these tools are being used in democratic countries with adequate restraint and oversight.
Table of contents
National cases: surveillance in ten countries
United States. We’re watch-listing you
Israel. Warning conversations: an intimidation approach to activism?
Russia. Vigilant state: the ‘Surveillance Database’ and other tools
Canada. The Re (X) case and the invisible subjects of digital surveillance
Argentina. The AMI case, the judiciary and the intelligence services
India. From the halls of Parliament to the cubicles of cybercafés: the Indian government is watching
Hungary. The cameras are on…and they know who they’re seeing
Ireland. Smoke and mirrors: Irish surveillance law and the illusion of accountability
Kenya. The case of Makaburi: the role of surveillance in extrajudicial killings
South Africa. Spying for others: troubling cases of transnational surveillance
Conclusion and recommendations