US in 6th, behind only the most ardent dictatorships
A study designed to rank countries in terms of how aggressively they monitor their populations electronically, has placed the US as 6th and the UK as 5th on a global index.
The two countries lag behind only China, North Korea, Belarus and Russia in terms of governmental surveillance.
The report, titled The Electronic Police State, (PDF link) was compiled from information available from different organizations such as the Electronic Privacy Information Center, Reporters Without Borders, Freedom House, the Ludwig von Mises Institute and The Heritage Foundation.
52 countries were rated on 17 criteria with regard to how far down the line they are toward a total electronic police state.
The study was undertaken by a private company called "CryptoHippie", which specializes in privacy technologies.
"In an Electronic Police State, every surveillance camera recording, every e-mail you send, every Internet site you surf, every post you make, every check you write, every credit card swipe, every cell phone ping… are all criminal evidence, and they are held in searchable databases, for a long, long time," the report states.
"Whoever holds this evidence can make you look very, very bad whenever they care enough to do so. You can be prosecuted whenever they feel like it – the evidence is already in their database," the report continues. "Perhaps you trust that your ruler will only use his evidence archives to hurt bad people. Will you also trust his successor? Do you also trust all of his subordinates, every government worker and every policeman?"
"If some leader behaves badly, will you really stand up to oppose him or her? Would you still do it if he had all the e-mails you sent when you were depressed? Or if she has records of every porn site you've ever surfed? Or if he knows every phone call you've ever made? Or if she knows everyone you've ever sent money to?" the report asks.
"This system hasn't yet reached its full shape, but all of the basics are in place and it is not far from complete in some places".
The report contains a colour coded world map, with red representing the most advanced electronic police states, orange for strongly developing electronic police states and yellow for nations that are further behind in terms of surveillance:
It is no surprise to see the UK ranking higher than the US, with it's estimated 4.5 million CCTV cameras, it's active DNA database, and given that the British government has openly announced the fact that it wants the authority to monitor and store all phone calls, text messages and emails, a practice already strongly rumoured to be in operation.
The 17 criteria that were used to define an electronic police state are listed below:
- Daily documents: How much is required day-to-day for residents to present state-issued identity documents or registration.
- Border issues: What is demanded for a border entry.
- Financial tracking: The state's ability to search and record financial transactions.
- Gag orders: The penalties for revealing to someone else the state is searching their records.
- Anti-crypto laws: Bans on cryptography.
- Constitutional protections: Either a lack of protections or someone overriding them.
- Data storage: The state's ability to record and keep what it uncovers.
- Data search: The processes to search through data.
- ISP data retention: The demand for ISPs to save customers' records.
- Telephone data retention: States' requirements for communications companies to record and save records.
- Cell phone records: The saving and using of cell phone users' records.
- Medical records: Demands from states that medical records retain information.
- Enforcement: The state's ability to use force (SWAT teams) to seize someone.
- Habeus corpus: Either an absence of such rights or someone overriding them.
- Police-Intel barrier: the absence of a barrier between police and intelligence organizations.
- Covert hacking: State operatives meddling in data on private computers covertly.
- Loose warrants: Warrants that are being issued without careful review of police claims by a truly independent judge.
The countries making up the top ten in the rankings are Singapore, Israel, France and Germany.
Following the top ten the rankings are: 11. Malaysia, 12. Ireland, 13. United Kingdom, Scotland, 14. Netherlands, 15. South Korea, 16. Ukraine, 17. Belgium, 18. Australia, 19. Japan, 20. New Zealand, 21. Austria, 22. Norway, 23. India, 24. Italy, 25. Taiwan, 26. Denmark, 27. Hungary, 28. Greece, 29. Canada, 30. Switzerland, 31. Slovenia, 32. Poland, 33. Finland, 34. Sweden, 35. Latvia, 36. Lithuania, 37. Cyprus, 38. Malta, 39. Estonia, 40. Czech Republic, 41. Iceland, 42. South Africa, 43. Spain, 44. Portugal, 45. Luxembourg, 46. Argentina, 47. Romania, 48. Thailand, 49. Bulgaria, 50. Brazil, 51. Mexico, 52. Philippines.