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Big Brother Is Watching

  • January 4th, 2008
  • Posted by Sian Graham

privacy-map.jpgLondon-based human rights group Privacy International last week (28.12.07) released its 2007 report on the state of privacy protection in 47 countries.

Through its extensive research of countries privacy and surveillance laws the group, together with US-based Electronic Privacy Information Centre, recognises countries in which privacy protection and respect for privacy is nurtured; and identifies countries in which governments and privacy regulators have failed to create a “healthy privacy environment”.

Greece topped the list this year earning a score of 3.1 making it the only country tested to meet the standards for “adequate safeguards against abuse”.

The lowest ranking countries in the survey were Malaysia, Russia and China scoring 1.3 to be classified as “endemic surveillance societies”.


The 2007 rankings indicate an overall worsening of privacy protection across the world, which the report says reflects an increase in surveillance and a declining performance on privacy safeguards.

Contributing to the declining standards in the EU, the report claims surveillance initiatives initiated by Brussels have caused a substantial decline in privacy across Europe- eroding protections in countries that have in the past shown high regard for privacy.

This brings the results down for two, from 2006, where both Germany and Canada were considered to have “significant protections and safeguards” in place.


Australia came in 26th place equal with Japan, Israel and Latvia but behind New Zealand.

With rather few safeguards and a widespread practice of surveillance Australia is considered to have a “systemic failure to uphold safeguards” in privacy matters.

Privacy International also lists Australia as having the worst record, among low scorers across three areas:

Constitutional protection: Australia, along with the United Kingdom (excluding Scotland), Singapore, and Malaysia.

Surveillance of medical, financial, and movement: Australia, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, the UK, Israel, Brazil, Norway, United States of America, Thailand, Taiwan, Russia, and Malaysia.

Finally, border and trans border issues: Australia, Denmark, France, the UK, Iceland, Switzerland, Japan, Israel, Norway, the United States of America, Taiwan, Russia, and Malaysia.

The research suggests that concern over immigration and border control in many countries has led many to significantly increase passport and identification measures to the perceived detriment of the individual’s right to privacy.

The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) is currently conducting a comprehensive review of the country’s Privacy Act and is due to report its findings later this year.

Reference / picture:

Privacy International, “Leading surveillance societies in the EU and the World 2007”, 28.12.07.[347]=x-347-559597 (4.1.08).