In recent years, there has been an increase worldwide in government demands for data held by the private sector, driven by a variety of factors. This includes an expansion in government requests for “systematic access:” direct access by the government to private-sector databases or networks, or government access, whether or not mediated by a company, to large volumes of data. Recent revelations about systematic access programs conducted by the United States, the United Kingdom and other countries have dramatically illustrated the issue and brought it to the forefront of international debates.
This report is the culmination of research, funded by The Privacy Projects, that began in 2011. In the first phase of the study, outside experts were commissioned to examine and write reports about laws, court decisions, and any available information about actual practices in thirteen countries (Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and the United States). Two roundtables were held with private-sector companies, civil society, and academics. Based on that research, a number of common themes were identified about the countries examined and a descriptive framework for analyzing and comparing national laws on surveillance and government access to data held by the private sector was developed. Also developed was a normative framework based on a series of factors that can be derived from the concept of “rule of law,” from constitutional principles, and from existing international human rights jurisprudence.