Mass surveillance technologies are being used across America and Britain. Human right campaigners have raised concerns of these programmes violating people’s right to privacy.
Mass surveillance has been in use for decades. Until recently, the surveillance was undertaken in secret. Edward Snowden, Julian Assange, and other human rights advocates have revealed the draconian nature of the programmes. These revelations led to worldwide protest and a call for an end to bulk data collection.
The bulk data collection programmes continued under ‘liberal’ leaders. Former U.S. President, Barack Obama, renewed the PATRIOT (Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism) Act. “Orwellian’ wording and PR campaigns limited public protests and allowed for the continued use of these programmes – the use, to a large extent, was limited to the federal level.
By 2019, these powers along with new surveillance tools have been extended from the national to the regional level. Agencies in Chicago and Detroit have purchased real-time facial recognition software. Both these cities deny using the system as of yet. Campaigners have brought to attention, even if they haven’t used the system yet, they plan to – if extreme surveillance was not on the agenda, these systems would not have been purchased.
Civil rights advocate also argue these programmes will disproportionately target ethnic minorities and low-income individuals. Chicago and Detroit have a large African American population with low median household income. A rollout of these expensive surveillance programmes will not address the underlying issues present in these regions -namely, lack of jobs and investment- but will increase the rate of incarceration for communities already targeted for the for-profit prison system.
Similar surveillance programmes are being utilised in the United Kingdom. London police recently fined a man after he covered his face in front of facial-recognition cameras.
Civil rights group Liberty has brought legal challenges against South Wales Police for using similar surveillance programmes. The groups labelled the use of these tools for data collection as being equivalent to collecting DNA or fingerprint without consent.
There is limited regulation of these mass surveillance programmes. Campaigners are using the courts to challenge their use, in some instance to bring to a complete end and in others to establish a common law framework regulate their use.