Secret surveillance laws make it impossible to have an informed debate about privacy

James Losey's new, open access, peer-reviewed article in the Journal of International Communication analyzes how secret laws underpinning surveillance undermine democratic principles and how transparency from both companies and governments is a critical first step for supporting an informed debate..

Transparency is a critical step toward accountability of the mechanisms through which law enforcement and government agencies access communications data. Since 2010, a growing contingent of ICT companies have begun to publish transparency reports on the extent that governments request their user data, and some include requirements to remove content as well. However, governments have fallen short on providing the level of detail on surveillance programs that is necessary for informed debate. This article offers an overview of transparency reports currently published by ICT companies and discusses why increased transparency is a necessary but insufficient condition for accountability and supporting democratic debates on the practice and extent of surveillance of communications. Furthermore, this article discusses why governments are well-positioned to provide a greater level of transparency on the legal processes and technical means through which law enforcement actors and agencies access private communications data.

Surveillance of Communications: A Legitimization Crisis and the Need for Transparency [James Losey/Journal of International Communication]

(Image: Nichts hören, nichts sehen, nichts sagen. - Stop Watching Us, Berlin, 27.07.2013, mw238, CC-BY-SA)