Thursday, July 12, 2007

French Privacy Watchdog Warns Against Surveillance Society

In its most recent activities report, the Commission nationale de l'informatique et des libertés or CNIL (the French national personal data protection and privacy commission) warns that the increased use of biometrics, surveillance cameras, and geolocalization technologies (to track employee movements via GPS systems in company cars or corporate mobile phones) may threaten privacy and civil liberties.

In a recent interview in the Parisian daily Le Monde (La CNIL s'inquiète d'une 'société de surveillance' qui menace les libertés - "The CNIL is worried about a 'surveillance society' that threatens freedoms"), CNIL president Alex Türk explains that the Commission is seeing a rapidly rising number of reports by private and public bodies about the implementation of increasingly sophisticated systems.

Türk adds that he sees another potential menace, which is the fact that new surveillance technologies are less and less visible: "de plus en plus de traitements de données sont réalisés à l'insu des personnes et permettent de tracer leur déplacements physiques dans les transports en commun, leurs consultations sur Internet, leurs communications téléphoniques" ("more and more processing of data is done without people being aware of it and allows the tracking of their physical movements in public transit, their web browsing, their phone communications").

Concern about the rise of the 'surveillance society' has been very strong in the United Kingdom. Obviously, this recent French report shows that other countries face the same debate.

Earlier Library Boy posts about surveillance include:
  • UK Fast Becoming Surveillance Society Says Info Commissioner (November 2, 2006): "Richard Thomas, the United Kingdom Information Commissioner, stated in a report released today that his country is sleep-walking into a surveillance society. This is due to the increasing accumulation of credit card, cell phone and loyalty card information, the monitoring of workers' computer activities, and the spread of closed circuit television surveillance. There are now 4.2 million closed circuit cameras in Britain and Britons are picked up 300 times a day on camera as they go about their regular private business."
  • International Surveillance and Privacy Survey from Queen's University (November 15, 2006): "Earlier this week, Queen's University researchers released the results of a survey of 9,000 people around the world about their experiences with surveillance and privacy: 'This is believed to be the first cross-cultural study of its kind that explores relationships between attitudes and experiences, and how much people trust corporations and governments to handle personal information, including the sharing of such information with third parties, the researcher says... the survey included nearly 50 questions on participant’s attitudes about issues like consumer surveillance, racial profiling at airports, national ID cards, media coverage of surveillance issues, workplace privacy, knowledge of privacy regulations, control over personal data and public trust in government'."
  • Suspect Nation Video on Rise of the Surveillance Society (November 28, 2006): "A documentary on widespread surveillance in the US and the UK by Henry Porter of the British paper The Observer has been posted to Google Video. Entitled Suspect Nation, it explores the potential misuse of the mountains of data collected about each of us through a proliferating number of technologies"
  • George Orwell's London Apartment Under 24-Hour Surveillance (April 4, 2007): "On the wall outside his former residence - flat number 27B - where Orwell lived until his death in 1950, an historical plaque commemorates the anti-authoritarian author. And within 200 yards of the flat, there are 32 CCTV cameras, scanning every move."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 1:51 pm


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