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Global Privacy Rankings Released 215

djmurdoch writes to alert us to the release of Privacy International's privacy ranking of 37 nations. This came out of PI and EPIC's annual Privacy and Human Rights global study, which this year runs to 1,200 pages. From a Globe and Mail article on the rankings: "Germany and Canada are the best defenders of privacy, and Malaysia and China the worst, an international rights group said in a report released Wednesday. Britain was rated as an endemic surveillance society, at No. 33, just above Russia and Singapore... The United States did only slightly better, at No. 30, ranked between Israel and Thailand, with few safeguards and widespread surveillance." PI's study coincided with a report from Britain's information commissioner warning that the UK could "sleep-walk into a surveillance society". The nation now has one CCTV camera for every 14 people.
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Global Privacy Rankings Released

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  • Woot!
    Congrats to Deutschland also.

    Never thought we'd rank so high on the list.

    • It's really sad that, when it comes to human rights, simply not being too much an a**hole rank you at the top position, while the "land of the free" considers it's OK as long as it still scores sligtly better than the axe of evil.
    • Have you not looked at a map of Canada recently? Of course you rank high. No one feels a need to go stick cameras in the snow to record trees growing. I don't mean this as a flame-bait attack on Canada. I have nothing against Canada. Honestly, I've been there twice and it was really nice (Prince Edward Island, if you're curious, I was there for a couple of weeks). But privacy is a function of, among other things, security and population density. Since no one has blown up anything Canadian recently, y
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by code addict ( 312283 )
        All of PEI is very rural. Try visiting one of the major cities such as Toronto, Montreal, or Vancouver sometime and you'll find they have densities very similar to that of the major cities in the USA.
      • Good point. I'd love to see some kind of foundation create a framework for describing comprehensive agendas with priority-balanced interests and strategies for change. Ideally it wouldn't be restricted to a single political camp or philosophy, but could accommodate multiple self-selected groups (or "parties," for lack of a better term).

        The salient measure of these things is "where do people rank this issue's importance and urgency within the context their total list of socio-political concerns," not "how m
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        "Since no one has blown up anything Canadian recently, you don't have to worry about that".

        Perhaps what might be more instructive would be to examine why no one is blowing anything up in Canada.

        "...fewer people seem to think seriously about the way lack of privacy is just a natural consequence of civilized life."

        Errr, no. Fewer people seem to think seriously that a less safe environment is just a natural consequence of a fucked up foreign policy that pisses over other countries and expects zero co

        • Perhaps what might be more instructive would be to examine why no one is blowing anything up in Canada.

          How does it feel to just walk into something that obvious? The only more depressing than the fact that I knew someone would make that senseless point was that I also knew it would get modded up.

          Errr, no. Fewer people seem to think seriously that a less safe environment is just a natural consequence of a fucked up foreign policy that pisses over other countries and expects zero consequences.

          Please show me
          • I don't really care about your particular argument with the OP, but I have to say that the fact that it's inevitable that global powers have enemies doesn't in any way justify e.g. a "fucked up foreign policy". Such a global power still has a great deal of choice about how many enemies it's going to make, and which ones, and that can make a great deal of difference to the powers' own interests.

            The argument in the U.S. case is that what it has done is not in its own interests, and has nothing to do with whe
            • I have to say that the fact that it's inevitable that global powers have enemies doesn't in any way justify e.g. a "fucked up foreign policy".

              For the casual internet polemic, "f****d up" may substitute for actually policy analysis, but if we're going to ask serious questions about American foreign policy then the question of why you can't avoid having enemies is directly relevant to foreign policy. I'd say the fundamental explanation for why any significant nation has enemies is that we live in a competiti
        • by smithmc ( 451373 )

            Perhaps what might be more instructive would be to examine why no one is blowing anything up in Canada.

          Perhaps for the same reason no one is blowing anything up in New Zealand, or Bhutan, or Slovakia - because they're small, relatively powerless, relatively out-of-the-way places that don't have much impact on the world scene. Now, there's nothing wrong with that, and it can have its advantages, but it also doesn't constitute a reason to go bragging on the US.

    • by Bishop ( 4500 )
      The Canadian Privacy Act is a great piece of legislation. At my old job I used to handle personal information and the Privacy Act was a real pain in the ass. That is a good thing.
  • by otacon ( 445694 ) on Thursday November 02, 2006 @11:56AM (#16689415)
    Since the United States is pretty good at surveillance we should monitor Canada's citizens for them because they can't seem too, I bet we would get bonus points for that. Maybe even the high score.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by bigberk ( 547360 )
      You do monitor our citizens, because the RCMP and US government collaborate to "catch evil terrorists". See again the recent case of Maher Arar, and the facts exposed in a government investigation. The RCMP acts as the Canadian arm of US government spy agencies, and even handed over one of their own citizens to the USA. The man was detained and tortured. All documented by government reports
    • by JimBobJoe ( 2758 )
      A similar joke was made at the North American meeting of the Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators.

      Quebec is the only jurisdiction in North America that issues a digital driver's license but doesn't retain the photographs (that might have changed since 2004, but at the time, the provincial assembly would not allow that to occur for privacy reasons.)

      Apparently the head* of the Alberta licensing system yelled out that Alberta would be happy to keep the digital photographs of Quebecois since Quebec could
  • by Anonymous Coward
    And no-one gives a shit.

    Privacy activist: "Hey! I don't like the look of these CCTV cameras/ID cards/vehicle tracking/databases of everything that you do."

    Everyone else: "Meh. Doesn't affect me."
    • by tolan-b ( 230077 )
      Specifically the report said that we were waking up in a surveillance society, not that we're walking into one.
    • And no-one gives a shit.

      Except for the Phantom Pooer []! He did give a shit (all over train seats) and was caught on CCTV doing it!

      So, in a way, people do give a shit. Some are just a bit more physical in their opinion...
    • I don't do anything illegal and I pay my taxes. I don't even speed (yes, I'm basically pretty boring.) The issue I have with eroding privacy isn't that big, bad government is out to get me. I'm really not that interesting and it wouldn't be worth their time. I'm more concerned with an individual or small group within the governement using the information in a negative way. Even more scarry is the prospect of it being done when they are convinced in their own minds that it's "for my own good" or for the
  • ...and the US is near the bottom?

    Hello, America! Talk about Britain sleep walking into a surveillance society, the U.S. seems to have already done it.

    Time to get on the ball now that the elections are up. Vote out the incuments!

    "They that would trade essential liberty for a little temporary safety deserve neither." -- Benjamin Franklin

    • "They that would trade essential liberty for a little temporary safety deserve neither." -- Benjamin Franklin

      That is my absolute favorite quote that Franklin never said []. OTOH, my sig is his :-)

      • Very good. But not quite. From the article you quoted:

        Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.
        With the information thus far available the issue of authorship of the statement is not yet definitely resolved, but the evidence indicates it was very likely Franklin, who in the Poor Richard's Almanack of 1738 is known to have written a similar proverb: "Sell not virtue to purchase wealth, nor Liberty to purchase power."

        So what I

        • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )
          The way I read that it says that the origin of the statement is not firmly resolved but it was very likely Franklin who wrote it. In addition, he definitely did write something very similar.
        • I stand corrected. Thank goodness, since I love attributing that quote to him....
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Kainaw ( 676073 )
      Time to get on the ball now that the elections are up. Vote out the incuments!

      Don't you watch the news? Don't you read the blogs? Didn't you see the movie by that fat guy in the ballcap? Come 2008, Bush will be out of office and the U.S. will become a utopia just like it was when Clinton was President.

      Enough sarcasm - you are asbolutely correct. Congress writes the laws. Congress passes the laws. The President just gets a photo-op when he signs them. If we want change in the U.S. we must focus on Con
      • The USA PATRIOT Act was primarily drafted by Viet D. Dinh and Michael Chertoff, neither of whom has ever been a Member of Congress (or a Democrat, as far as I know). Congress passes the laws, but the Executive Branch and lobbyists are the ones writing most of them.
      • It would be nice if we actually had a choice. Ya get the exact same thing from republicans and democrats, and third-party/independent candidates have an uneven playing field on which to compete.

        Something shocking has to happen before we're going to get any real change. Something much bigger than 9/11.
      • by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Thursday November 02, 2006 @03:16PM (#16692727)
        Come 2008, Bush will be out of office and the U.S. will become a utopia just like it was when Clinton was President.
        I originally voted against Clinton. Yet in retrospect, I've realized America was better off during his term than any other in my lifetime. Though not utopia, we had peace, prosperity, and falling crime, moreso then than either before or after. It's a matter of record. Now, I am not one to blame/credit the President for everything that happens during his term, but results have to count for something.
        Congress writes the laws. Congress passes the laws. The President just gets a photo-op when he signs them. If we want change in the U.S. we must focus on Congress.
        I think are describing the Constitution, rather than our current government. Have you noticed that President Bush has vetoed virtually nothing during his Presidency? It's not because he's afraid to use it, it's because our federal govt. has been under one-party rule for the last 6 years. The President is literally doing what he wants and getting it legalized afterwards. You think individual representatives can step out of line without consequences? The Democrats are spineless because they know they don't have the votes to make it stick. Even McCain, whom I respected, has been brought to heel.

        For the first time, I am not voting the issues on Tuesday. I'm voting for a return to government gridlock, because we are living the consequences of too much concentration of power, and hundreds of billions of dollars are being wasted, and tens of thousands of people (including thousands of Americans) are dying.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          I think you nailed it.

          Things weren't better with Clinton in office beacuse Clinton was in office... things were better when one party controlled the Presidency, and the other controlled Congress.

          When it comes to politicians, the more we can keep them fighting each other the less harm they can do to the rest of us.
  • Really. You should have no concerns about the safeguarding of your most intimate secrets. What you SHOULD be concerned about is your unhealthy attraction to midgets in furry costumes. Sicko.
  • by krell ( 896769 ) on Thursday November 02, 2006 @12:06PM (#16689569) Journal
    "He's sees you when you're sleeping

    He knows if you're awake

    He knows if you've been bad or good

    So be good for goodness' sake

    Oh, you better watch out..."
  • Missing Countries (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Nexx ( 75873 ) on Thursday November 02, 2006 @12:09PM (#16689613)
    Where are countries like Japan, Singapore, South Korea? Where are countries like Iran? Were a lot of these countries left off because adding them in will skew results, showing data that the organisers don't want us to see?
    • by Jimmy_B ( 129296 )
      I'd say they were left off because collecting data on a country takes time and effort, and research projects like this one have limited budgets. There are a lot of countries that could've been included, but including all of them would require gathering a lot more data.
    • by dylan_- ( 1661 )
      From the article:

      "This year Privacy International took the decision to use the report as the basis for a ranking assessment of the state of privacy in all EU countries together with eleven benchmark countries."

  • To suggest Britain is sleep-walking into a surveillance society fails to address a key factor: Many people welcome or even demand the increased surveillance and lack of privacy.

    I don't know whether it's due to perceived reductions in crime associated with invasive surveillance, the results of Government spinning to sell the idea of perpetual monitoring or the FUD coming from the print media.

    There is a significant minority in the UK that greatly dislikes the direction we're going in, that is aware of the ste
    • Has anyone ever found a persuasive counterargument to the notion that "if you've nothing to hide, you have no reason to fear surveillance" ? This notion seems intuitively wrong to me, but most people find it intuitively true. So, how would you change their minds ?
      • by jeremyp ( 130771 )
        Everybody has things they want to hide from at least some people.

        For instance, I want to hide my online banking password from anybody who wants to steal my money. Let's say that the government passes a law that says it must have the decryption keys for all secure connections in case it needs to snoop on terrorists then my online banking password is no longer secret from the government. The government may not be interested in my online banking password, but the corrupt underpaid civil servant who does the
  • Privacy doesn't exist in a vacuum, it is just one of many human rights. As best I can tell, the justification for privacy is the prevention of prejudice. If it isn't known that somebody is ZYX, then s/he can't be subjected to prejudice on that count (also operative as prior restraint). I'm not sure there's any other social justification. Certainly there is no right to privacy to hide wrongdoing though some might dispute what constitutes wrongdoing and demand privacy to conceal filesharing/piracy.


  • by DumbSwede ( 521261 ) <> on Thursday November 02, 2006 @12:21PM (#16689831) Homepage Journal
    Greece ranks way above US across the board???
    Come on, wasn't Greek just trashed as barely being above China in this regard just last Tuesday by everyone on Slashdot?
    Greek Blog Aggregator Arrested []

    This survey is a joke. I just don't know exactly what the agenda is, but it is far from accurate or fair.
    Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying US should be number one (or even close), just that the E.U. rates too high given the spotty track record of many of its members.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Lemmy Caution ( 8378 )
      It measures privacy. Not openness of discourse, or human rights, or other questions. The US has weak privacy protections: this is pretty well known.
      • Ahhh... not that promoting ones "Privacy Advantage" might not obvoscate deficiencies on those other more important metrics?
        • by Lemmy Caution ( 8378 ) on Thursday November 02, 2006 @01:08PM (#16690501) Homepage
          Or they could be completely orthogonal. The US (domestically) isn't terribly bad on human rights, but is bad on privacy. Germany is pretty good at both.

          Human rights are usually a matter of how the executive functions, particularly in law enforcement. Privacy has more to do with legislation and the private sector: privacy regulations restrict what information about you public and private institutions (insurers, credit agencies, etc.) can distribute, and how it is distributed. It also is a question of how those institutions protect your data, such as your credit card and banking information.

          All pretty much completely unrelated to questions of freedom of speech (unless you think there is a free-speech aspect to restricting whether a business can give away your private information.)
      • by smithmc ( 451373 )

          It measures privacy. Not openness of discourse, or human rights, or other questions. The US has weak privacy protections: this is pretty well known.

        Meanwhile, the US is pretty good when it comes to openness, to access to and freedom of information. Could it be that these two values oppose each other to some degree? If you want an open society, you put privacy at risk. But if you value privacy more, you sacrifice a degree of openness?

        • When I - and most people - think of an open society, we think of things like freedom of movement, freedom of press, freedom of speech, etc. We really don't think about the free circulation of your credit card number - I don't think that me having possession of your credit card number and social security number, and the freedom to distribute it if I somehow obtained it in a legal transaction, makes this society any more open.

          Malaysia has very poor privacy controls, and I would be reluctant to describe it as
    • Remember, to be a threat to privacy, the government actually has to be a credible threat.

      The Greeks can barely get their shit together enough to host an event where the entire world is going to be watching (the Olympics) -- granted, they had to do a lot of work to get the infrastructure in place, but they did most of it in the 11th hour.

      They're my people, and I love them, but run an effective government? Not since Pericles...

      • by houghi ( 78078 )
        but they did most of it in the 11th hour.

        Who cares? What matters is that they did it.

  • What scares me is not really the lack of privacy (hey, if your looking to go blind, go ahead and spy on some of my activities!) but rather what gets done with the information. So long as we work to maintain a firm grasp on the kind of people who are in charge of the info, I'm alright. Sadly, I am not alright right now. Our grip over those who watch us is slippery if even existant; we need better congressional oversight and that'll require better citizen oversight. I'm very meticulous when I choose my votes;
  • To Americans who believe that Canada is just like you guys except colder.

    - we know we're doing better than many countries when it comes to human rights but we are not happy and most likely never will be.
    - we don't have a ton of people chanting patriot nonsense on national television. Most of the time we make fun of politicians regardless of affiliation.
    - one of the biggest reasons why we are doing so good is because we have you guys just south of us. We look at what you are doing and point out w
    • Well (Score:2, Funny)

      by jorgeuva ( 963084 )
      Years of keen observation have shown that Americans prefer the aggressively jingoistic Arial 12 point, so admirably, he's made his adjustments.
    • we don't have a ton of people chanting patriot nonsense on national television

      No, we have the Internet for that, as you have so helpfully demonstrated.

      Seriously, the U.S. scares me these days. But Canada's smaller and less powerful, so we have less scope to screw things up. Give us half a chance and I doubt we'd be so superior.

  • Big deal, its endemic, I say there still isn't enough cameras and all the camera's are in public places anyway. I'm being watched every day by somebody as it is and I think its fear mongering by this study group. It isn't 1984 yet nor are they being used to the detriment of our society. As long as they are not in our homes and there are no secret police who pick you off the street KGB style (that work with relation to the public cameras) I'm okay with it. In fact thinking about it while writing this par
  • It seems to me that most of the local ISP's have clauses stating that they may covertly monitor and log your internet activity. There was a bit of a discussion on /. about that at some time, I believe, as several ISP's had sneaky policy changes implemented
  • by LS ( 57954 ) on Thursday November 02, 2006 @12:40PM (#16690069) Homepage
    Human rights, eh, I don't know. But privacy? It's not a big issue here in Beijing, where I've happened to live for the last year and a half. First and foremost, there are almost no contracts that you must agree to. You anonymously buy prepaid cards for your anonymously purchased SIM card that you put in your anonymously purchased phone. Online purchases are done using phone credits that you purchased anonymously. Most rental agreements are done directly with the landlord to avoid paying taxes. A good portion of the vehicles on the road are unregistered. Many of the citizens are not even registered as existing. Gas and electricity are purchased anonymously through smart cards and recharged in the home. You pay for water anonymously to a lady that comes to your door to collect. International credit cards are accepted almost no where, and the one national credit card is not used very much. Everything is in cash. The country is too busy building up it's economy and bringing the poor into the fold to mess around putting surveilance everywhere. Airport security is less strict that PRE-9/11 US airports.

    In retrospect, it looks like most of the stuff I just mentioned is in regards to corporations and their respect of privacy. People in the US (I'm a US citizen) seem to think it's OK for corporations to keep all this data on you, because you supposedly agreed to it. But is there any other way to not live like a caveman other than to give up your privacy? And who believes that the government and the public corporations aren't already one entity anyway? How many senators and congressmen take money from corps? How many of them are actually investors and on the board of directors for these corps?

    It's ironic that you have a far greater level of privacy in China than in the US.

    At the government level privacy in China a different story, but even then it's not so bad. Internet and other communication are monitored, but that is easily circumvented with the use of SSL. They are monitored in every other country in the world as well. In fact, China may be more honest here for at least admitting it publicly.

    • Your question got straight to the heart of the matter and its something I've noticed. In the US, our society seems to demand very little in the way of protections from Corporate snooping into our lives, but we get very angry when we learn of Government's monitoring of our lives. This contrasts with much of the rest of the world, where governments are not automatically assumed to be evil, but corporations are. Particularly in Germany, there is a sense that the Government is there to protect people from inva
      • i)ave wrote:Particularly in Germany, there is a sense that the Government is there to protect people from invasion of people's rights by the Corporations

        Interesting: in the years leading up to the 2nd World War, both German and Italy were experimenting with giving the corporations more say in government, with representatives from, for example, the oil and gas industry, elected by their companies to committees officially advising on the creation of legislation. This was formally called "corporatism". In It

      • A case in point. Look at all the data thefts that have occured over the past few years of unprotected government databases.

        One or two look like an "oops."
        But hundreds? Either there is a disregard for public records, or perhaps the Government WANTS the data released -- so that a private sector company can do what they can't with the data, and there is plausible deny ability about the source. [] []

        but when you look at the civil sector, it'
    • If you want a SIM that lets you call outside China (even to Hong Kong), you have to sign an agreement that is a long way from anonymous.

      I have seen several of these contracts my coworkers signed and brought back.
  • Number 1 (Score:2, Insightful)

    Reminds me of a recent clip [] I saw of Bill Maher saying it's time for a America to stop bragging about being #1 and start acting like it.
  • Is this any less stupid than the "Freedom of Speech" list in which they pick various arcane criteria with which to rate countries?

    The same kind of list that people bring up every time some debate about how evil the US has become gets going?

    Oh Look the US came in 38th on the Puppies list!! Haa haa, stupid America, even Chile has more puppies!

    I'm going to come up with my own list, it will be called the "Green Grass list" and will rank countries based on where people would most like to move to. Speaking as som
  • by Phat_Tony ( 661117 ) on Thursday November 02, 2006 @01:14PM (#16690619)
    Net results from the study, for all you who don't want to RTF[PDF]A.

    GERMANY 3.9
    CANADA 3.6
    BELGIUM 3.2
    AUSTRIA 3.2
    GREECE 3.1
    FRANCE 2.9
    POLAND 2.9
    PORTUGAL 2.9
    CYPRUS 2.9
    FINLAND 2.7
    ITALY 2.6
    LATVIA 2.6
    ESTONIA 2.6
    MALTA 2.6
    DENMARK 2.5
    CZECH REP. 2.5
    IRELAND 2.5
    SLOVAKIA 2.5
    SPAIN 2.4
    SLOVENIA 2.3
    SWEDEN 2.2
    ISRAEL 2.2
    US 2
    THAILAND 1.9
    UK 1.5
    RUSSIA 1.4
    MALAYSIA 1.3
    CHINA 1.3
  • by UpnAtom ( 551727 ) on Thursday November 02, 2006 @02:10PM (#16691609) Homepage

    Tony Blair has called for all innocent citizens to be forcibly DNA swabbed []. Since the Govt stated they would link the police databases to the National Identity Register [] (pg 5), this would mean our DNA, our tax/benefits records and detailed tracking of our car movements via ANPR will be cross-indexed into a single surveillance dossier.

    Furthermore, you will be denied a new passport unless you give up this information, according to the ID Cards Act.

    This comes two months after Gordon Brown was reported to be "planning a massive expansion of the ID cards project that would widen surveillance of everyday life by allowing high-street businesses to share confidential information with police databases. []"
    He described how "police could be alerted as soon as a wanted person used a biometric-enabled cash card or even entered a building via an iris-scan door. []"

    More details of how the National Identity Register will be the hub of Britain's Surveillance State []

  • Germany and Canada were not mentioned in the investigation of the 9-11 attacks ... oh wait
  • I really doubt there is as much digital privacy in Canada. The lines between these two countries gets blurred as internet traffic travels between routers north and south of the border. We know the US Government actively monitors all internet traffic with a huge data mining effort on the part of the NSA.

    Doing this, the US government is also able to learn an unbelievable amount of info about Canadian citizens, and the government. Many Canadians have their physical servers located in the USA (myself included).
  • It is sad that the US is not closer to the top of defending privacy.

    I was reading an article today on Foxnews (link [] as of 11.02.06 4:45 pm). On the surface it just sounds like cops doing their jobs. Until I read this line:

    Those totals represent a fraction of doors knocked on, liquor store drive-bys, construction site surveillances and tips chased down by agents during the weeklong sweep.

    To me, sounds very gestapo. Can't even go get a beer now without risk of being stopped by a cop. Bad news imo....

"Hey Ivan, check your six." -- Sidewinder missile jacket patch, showing a Sidewinder driving up the tail of a Russian Su-27