The practice of mass surveillance exists in direct tension with the fundamental human right to privacy. The universal right to privacy is based on the belief that individuals have reason to value freedom from unwarranted monitoring by the state, corporations or other actors.
States may have a legitimate interest in carrying out targeted surveillance to protect citizens from criminality or terrorism. However, the Snowdon revelations made clear that states are engaged in mass surveillance that often falls outside existing legal frameworks. It can be argued that citizens are less able to defend themselves from such invasive mass surveillance in countries with weak legal protections, check and balances, or independent oversight.
This research will review how surveillance is legally defined, limited, and subject to oversight in six African countries: Nigeria, Senegal, Egypt, Sudan, Kenya and South Africa. The scope will include existing legal instruments, experience of recourse, jurisprudence, and efficacy in balancing the right to privacy with the need for surveillance. The draft legal instrument being developed by the UN as well as existing law in OECD countries will serve as points of comparison. The study will generate recommendations for policy, practice and further research.
This surveillance research forms part of IDS work with the African Digital Rights Network.