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Greater transparency and accountability of surveillance systems

30 January, 2013
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This article is also available in:
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)
http://irissproject.eu/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/IRISS_D1_MASTER_DOCU...

IRSS project
http://irissproject.eu/

 

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