articles | 15 October 2019

‘Big Brother’ not quite here yet, new survey shows

Cyprus ranks average in a new survey on privacy protection and the state of surveillance, scoring a 3.0 overall for having "some safeguards but with weakened protection”.

The survey was compiled by Comparitech, a pro-consumer website providing information, tools, and comparisons to help consumers in the US, UK and further afield to research and compare tech services.

The company said it had assessed privacy protection and the state of surveillance in 47 countries to see where governments were failing to protect privacy and or were creating surveillance states.

It looked at a number of categories, from the use of biometrics and CCTV to data sharing and retention laws, finding that “not one country is consistent in protecting the privacy of its citizens”.

“Most are actively surveilling their citizens, and only five could be deemed to have “adequate safeguards,” Comparitech said.

The categories used to make the comparisons included constitutional protections, statutory protections (laws), privacy enforcement, data sharing, visual surveillance, communication interception, workplace monitoring, government access, and data retention, among others.

Each category was graded out of 5.0 with 4.1-5.0 signifying a country that upholds privacy standards consistently, 3.6-4.0 meaning significant safeguards and protections, 3.1-3.5 equating to adequate safeguards, 2.6-3.0 meaning some safeguards but weakened protections, 2.1-2.5 equating to systemic failure to maintain safeguards, 1.6-2.0 meaning extensive surveillance and 1.1-1.5 meaning endemic surveillance.

Cyprus’ lowest ‘Big Brother’ score fell into the area of ID cards and biometrics with only a 2.3, and its highest score came for the lack of visual surveillance at 3.6. In all, the island came in at 3.0, which compared well with other countries and almost on a par with the top five EU countries. These were listed as Ireland with a 3.2, France at 3.1, Portugal with 3.1, and Denmark 3.1, all classed as ‘adequate safeguards’, Malta came in fifth with 3.0, the same as Cyprus, with ‘some safeguards, weakened protection’.

The worst five EU countries for surveillance were Italy, Hungary and Slovenia with 2.7 each, followed by Germany with 2.8 and Spain at 2.9. All five were classed as ‘some safeguards, weakened protection’.

“Due to the recent implementation of the GDPR laws, there isn’t much difference in the scores of EU countries,” said Comparitech. “What tends to differentiate them is their data-sharing agreements with other countries, their freedom of speech, their use of biometrics, and other country-specific rules and regulations.” Cyprus’ data-sharing score was 3.1, meaning adequate protections in that area.

Comparitech added that the GDPR protection law does not prevent some countries from entering into agreements that encroach on residents’ privacy through data sharing with other countries. “It doesn’t stop some countries from increasing their use of biometric surveillance, either,” the company added.

“Outside of the EU, several countries are creating what can only be described as surveillance states, with privacy rights seemingly taking a serious back seat. Perhaps unsurprisingly, China and Russia are the biggest culprits,” it added.

The top three non-EU countries for adequate protections were Norway, 3.1, South Africa 3.0 and Switzerland 3.0, and at the bottom China 1.8, Russia 2.1 and India 2.4, all tagged ‘systemic failure to maintain safeguards’.

Source: Cyprus Mail

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