Thomas Hammarberg, Commissioner for Human Rights for the Council of Europe, has published a new essay, Strong data protection rules are needed to prevent the emergence of a surveillance society.
Surveillance technology is developing with breath-taking speed. This creates new instruments in the struggle against terrorism and organised crime, but also raises fundamental questions on the right to privacy for everyone. Individuals should be protected from intrusions into their private life and from the improper collecting, storing, sharing and use of data about them. Terrorism and organised crime must be combated – but not with means which undermine basic human rights.
It is sometimes said that only those who have something to hide should be fearful about these new measures. However, the notion that if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear puts the onus in the wrong place – it should be for States to justify precisely the interferences they seek to make on privacy rights, not for individuals to justify their concern about interferences with their basic human rights.
The use of such new facilities and expanded competencies for the police and security services requires enhanced democratic and judicial control.