Blogs | Privacy and data protection | Privacy and confidentiality | Surveillance and data retention

Member Spotlight: Panoptykon Foundation

By EDRi · November 15, 2017

This is the eighth article of the series “EDRi member in the Spotlight” in which our members introduce themselves and their work in depth.

Today we introduce our Polish member Panoptykon Foundation.

1. Who are you and what is your organisation’s goal and mission?

The Panoptykon Foundation is the only organisation in Poland that monitors state agencies and corporations that collect massive amounts of data, and has been doing so since 2009. We carry out investigations, monitor the legislative process, make legal interventions and inspire public debate. We help people regain control over their own data.

2. How did it all begin, and how did your organisation develop its work?

The Panoptykon Foundation was established in April 2009 upon the initiative of a group of engaged lawyers, to express their opposition to surveillance. After one year of after-hours voluntary work of two founders – Katarzyna Szymielewicz and Małgorzata Szumańska, the organisation received first project grants. Today, the Panoptykon Foundation is a well-integrated team of professionals, with a long-term strategy and a track record of significant successes in watchdog and awareness raising activity.

3. The biggest opportunity created by advancements in information and communication technology is…

Combating exclusion. Equal opportunities to access to information and knowledge.

4. The biggest threat created by advancements in information and communication technology is…

For us as individual citizens/consumers: losing control over our own data.

5. Which are the biggest victories/successes/achievements of your organisation?

Before Panoptykon there was no public debate on surveillance in Poland. We generated sustained media interest in topics such as uncontrolled use of telecommunication and internet data by intelligence services, integration of public databases, pervasive use of video surveillance (including in schools), the use of profiling in the context of public services, data transfers in trade agreements, and European data protection reform. Some of the issues that we framed triggered massive public mobilisation (for example protests against Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, ACTA, in 2012).

6. If your organisation could now change one thing in your country, what would that be?

We would like people to be more resistant to the policy of fear: to contest the rhetoric of limiting their rights and freedoms to “protect them from terrorist” .

7. What is the biggest challenge your organisation is currently facing in your country?

The mistreatment of fundamental rights and the rule of law by the decision makers. Polarisation of the public debate: you have to be either pro or against the government, you cannot support the good ideas and criticise the bad ones, you have to declare yourself on one side or the other.

8. How can one get in touch with you if they want to help as a volunteer, or donate to support your work?

Visit or (in Polish). Contact us through e-mail:

EDRi member in the spotlight series

(Contribution by Anna Obem, EDRi member Panoptykon Foundation, Poland)