UK surveillance “worse than 1984,” says new UN privacy chief
The newly appointed UN special rapporteur on privacy, Joseph Cannataci, has called the UK’s oversight of surveillance “a rather bad joke at its citizens’ expense,” and said that the situation regarding privacy is “worse” than anything George Orwell imagined in his novel 1984. Speaking to The Guardian, Cannataci said: “at least Winston [a character in Orwell’s 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.”
Cannataci is also concerned about the routine surveillance carried out by Internet companies as a key part of their business model. “They just went out and created a model where people’s data has become the new currency,” he said. “And unfortunately, the vast bulk of people sign their rights away without knowing or thinking too much about it.”
The mandate of the new post of UN special rapporteur on privacy is broad. Cannataci, who is a professor of law at the University of Malta, and uses neither Facebook nor Twitter, is empowered to review government policies on digital surveillance and the collection of personal data, and to identify activities that harm privacy protection without any compelling justification. He can also give his views on how the private sector should be addressing its human rights responsibilities in this field.