Greater transparency and accountability of surveillance systems

By EDRi · January 30, 2013

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Deutsch: [Überwachung: Mehr Transparenz und Rechenschaftslegung gefragt |]

A report called “Surveillance, Fighting Crime and Violence” was produced
by the IRISS (Increasing Resilience in Surveillance Societies) project
funded by the European Commission under the 7th Framework Programme.

The report analyses the factors underpinning the development and use of
surveillance systems and technologies by both public authorities and
private actors, their implications in fighting crime and terrorism,
social and economic costs, protection and infringement of civil
liberties, fundamental rights and ethical aspects.

The project has identified the following trends: (1) a substantial
growth of public sector demand for surveillance bolstered by the
adoption of identity schemes and terrorist detection technologies and
markets, (2) an increase in the demand for civil and commercial
surveillance, (3) the development of a global industry in surveillance,
(4) an increase in integrated surveillance solutions, and (5) a rise in
the government use of cross-border surveillance solutions.

“The role of surveillance in law enforcement is expanding,” says IRISS
project co-ordinator Reinhard Kreissl. “There has been a shift in its
use in identifying offenders before they have committed a crime. This
has affected the presumption of innocence in a way that citizens are now
considered suspects (a shift to a presumption of guilt).” With the
growth of encompassing preventive surveillance, the presumption of
innocence as an important legal safeguard is gradually hollowed out.

“There are numerous open questions about the usefulness and
effectiveness of surveillance technologies and their possible rebound
effects, specifically in relation to surveillance measures introduced to
fight terrorism and organised crime without knowledge of their
effectiveness and consideration of their negative side effects.”

Among the report’s other findings and recommendations, two of them
should be mention in the current context:

1. Important social costs of surveillance include the social damage
caused by false positives of suspects of criminal and terrorist
activities, the categorical suspicion and discrimination of members of
certain social or ethnic groups, the marginalising effects and social
inequalities caused by invasive monitoring of those of lower social
status, the inhibitory effects of surveillance which can undermine
social and democratic activities, and the erosion of trust in society.

2. Data protection authorities as external overseers and regulators
typically focus upon the privacy-related implications of surveillance
and find it difficult to embrace a wider perspective of values in their
regulatory exhortations and enforcement practice. The laws within which
they operate do not normally give them a licence to roam across the
range of values to invoke when they seek to limit surveillance.

The report was produced by a consortium of 16 partners from
universities, research institutes and companies from Austria, Belgium,
Germany, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Slovakia, Spain and the United Kingdom.

IRISS report: “Surveillance, Fighting Crime and Violence” (17.12.2012)

IRSS project