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Big Brother gets bigger, says global privacy study

U.S., U.K. among worst-ranked "democratic" countries in terms of privacy protections for citizens, says 2007 International Privacy Ranking report.

Update Jan 3 with more background on report

According to a new international privacy report, governments around the world are increasingly invading the privacy of citizens with surveillance, identification systems, and archiving of private data.

Driven by concern over immigration and border control, countries have been quick to implement database, identity, and fingerprinting systems, according to the 2007 International Privacy Ranking report.

Surveillance cameras

There was also an increase in the trend of governments archiving data on the geographic, communications, and financial records of citizens, as well as enacting legislation intended to increase the reach into individuals' private lives, the report found.

"At the same time, technological advances, technology standards, interoperability between information systems, and the globalization of information have placed extraordinary pressure on the few remaining privacy safeguards," the report says. "The effect of these developments has been to create surveillance societies that nurture hostile environments for privacy."

Specifically, governments have implemented or proposed use of fingerprint and iris-scanning biometrics, real-time tracking and monitoring through communications channels, geographic vehicle and mobile phone tracing, national DNA databases, global information-sharing agreements, and the elimination of anonymity in cyberspace.

The lowest-ranking countries in terms of privacy protections continue to be Malaysia, Russia, and China, with Greece, Romania, and Canada ranked highest.

In terms of statutory protections and privacy enforcement, the United States is the worst country in the "democratic world" and is outranked by both India and the Philippines on overall privacy protection. The U.S. has fallen into the "black" category reserved for countries with "endemic surveillance."

In the European Union, the worst-ranked country is the United Kingdom, particularly with regard to surveillance. Specifically, councils in England and Wales continue to spread surveillance policies, including RFID, CCTV, ID and data sharing, and road user tracking, according to the report.

The report, prepared by Privacy International and the Electronic Privacy Information Center, is based on EPIC's annual Privacy and Human Rights survey, an 1,100-page report that covers 75 countries.