Post entitled, New UN Privacy Chief Proclaims – UK Digital Surveillance is “Worse than Orwell” originally appeared on Liberty Blitzkrieg.
Cannataci says we are dealing with a world even worse that anything Orwell could have foreseen. “It’s worse,” he said. “Because if you look at CCTV alone, at least Winston was able to go out in the countryside and go under a tree and expect there wouldn’t be any screen, as it was called. Whereas today there are many parts of the English countryside where there are more cameras than George Orwell could ever have imagined. So the situation in some cases is far worse already.
– UN Privacy chief, Joseph Cannataci
The UN special rapporteur on privacy, Joseph Cannataci, pulls no punches when it comes to privacy. It’s hard to disagree with what he has to say.
From the Guardian:
The first UN privacy chief has said the world needs a Geneva convention style law for the internet to safeguard data and combat the threat of massive clandestine digital surveillance.
Speaking to the Guardian weeks after his appointment as the UN special rapporteur on privacy, Joseph Cannataci described British surveillance oversight as being “a joke”, and said the situation is worse than anything George Orwell could have foreseen.
He added that he doesn’t use Facebook or Twitter, and said it was regrettable that vast numbers of people sign away their digital rights without thinking about it.
One thing that is certainly going to come up in my mandate is the business model that large corporations are using
“Some people were complaining because they couldn’t find me on Facebook. They couldn’t find me on Twitter. But since I believe in privacy, I’ve never felt the need for it,” Cannataci, a professor of technology law at University of Groningen in the Netherlands and head of the department of Information Policy & Governance at the University of Malta, said.
Appointed after concern about surveillance and privacy following the Edward Snowden revelations, Cannataci agreed that his notion of a new universal law on surveillance could embarrass those who may not sign up to it. “Some people may not want to buy into it,” he acknowledged. “But you know, if one takes the attitude that some countries will not play ball, then, for example, the chemical weapons agreement would never have come about.”
Cannataci came into his new post in July after a controversial spat involving the first-choice candidate, Katrin Nyman-Metcalf, who the Germans in particular thought might not be tough enough on the Americans.
But for Cannataci – well-known for having a mind of his own – it is not America but Britain that he singles out as having the weakest oversight in the western world: “That is precisely one of the problems we have to tackle. That if your oversight mechanism’s a joke, and a rather bad joke at its citizens’ expense, for how long can you laugh it off as a joke?”
However, Cannataci says we are dealing with a world even worse that anything Orwell could have foreseen. “It’s worse,” he said. “Because if you look at CCTV alone, at least Winston [Winston Smith in Orwell’s novel 1984] was able to go out in the countryside and go under a tree and expect there wouldn’t be any screen, as it was called. Whereas today there are many parts of the English countryside where there are more cameras than George Orwell could ever have imagined. So the situation in some cases is far worse already.
“The way we handle it is going to be the difference. But Orwell foresaw a technology that was controlling. In our case we are looking at a technology that is ever-developing, and ever-developing possibly more sinister capabilities.” Because of this, the Snowden revelations were very important, he said.“We have a number of corporations that have set up a business model that is bringing in hundreds of thousands of millions of euros and dollars every year and they didn’t ask anybody’s permission. They didn’t go out and say: ‘Oh, we’d like to have a licensing law.’ No, they just went out and created a model where people’s data has become the new currency. And unfortunately, the vast bulk of people sign their rights away without knowing or thinking too much about it,” he said.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way…
Yes, the UK is particularly bad when it comes to privacy, as has been noted on many occasions. See: