Accountability Unchained: Bulk Data Retention, Preemptive Surveillance, and Transatlantic Data Protection
In M. Rotenberg, J. Scott & J. Horwitz (Eds.), Visions of Privacy in a Modern Age. New York: New Press (2015 Forthcoming)
Institute for Information Law Research Paper No. 2014-04
10 Pages Posted: 22 Nov 2014
Date Written: November 21, 2014
The innovations on which today’s Internet proliferated have been a major gift from its founders and the US government to the world. Ever since the rise of the Internet it has attracted utopian ideas of a free and borderless cyberspace, a men-made global commons that serves an international community of users. First commercialization and now the prevalence of state surveillance have significantly depreciated the utopist patina.
Internet’s borderless nature which was once heralded to rise above the nation state has actually enabled some states to rise above their borders when engaging in mass surveillance that affects users on a global scale. International human rights law and emerging Internet governance principles have not been authoritative enough to protect users’ privacy and the confidentiality of communications.
More or less openly, Western democracies embarked on the path of mass surveillance with the aim to fight crime and defend national security. Although country specific approaches vary, reflecting political and ideological differences, mass surveillance powers frequently raise issues of constitutional compatibility. Beyond striking the balance between public security and privacy, systemic surveillance carries the potential to erode democracy from the inside.
This chapter’s focus is on the safeguards and accountability of mass surveillance in Europe and the US and how this affects transatlantic relations. It queries whether national systems of checks and balances are still adequate in relation to the growth and the globalization of surveillance capabilities. Lacking safeguards and accountability at the national level can exacerbate in the context of transnational surveillance. It can lead to asymmetries between countries which are precisely at the core of the transatlantic rift over mass surveillance. The chapter concludes with a brief review of proposals how to reduce them.
Keywords: Democracy, accountability, surveillance, electronic communications, privacy
JEL Classification: K33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation