London, January 8 : While the trend of government surveillance is on the rise across the world, the US has emerged as the country whose citizens enjoyed privacy protection the least last year, according to an annual report.
The UK, China, and Russia follow the US on the list of countries with the highest government surveillance last year, shows the report.
Published by advocacy groups Privacy International of the UK and the Electronic Privacy Information Center in the US, the 2007 International Privacy Ranking gave Britain the "black" or "endemic" ranking for the second year in a row.
Justified the UK's low ranking, Gus Hosein of Privacy International pointed out that the country had the world's largest network of surveillance cameras, plans for national identity cards rich with personal and biometric information, and little government accountability when personal information was lost.
"This government has access to its people and technology that China doesn't. It really is that bad here," New Scientists magazine quoted Hosein as saying.
The report also suggests that the George Bush Administration resorted to tapping international phone calls and emails without a warrant for those with suspected links to terrorists last year.
Greece was the only country judged to have "adequate safeguards", relatively strong privacy rights, and an independent Data Privacy Authority. The country's laws contain provisions regarding fining or imprisoning government officials for breaches in personal information procedures.
Experts believe that the problem was rising perhaps because the technology was growing at a faster rate than government safeguards.
"There is a rapid expansion of technologies for surveillance, identification, and border control and a much slower adoption of policies to safeguard privacy and security," says Marc Rotenberg, of the Electronic Privacy Information Center.
Some even express surprise at the way governments can anonymously monitor Internet traffic.
"Even democratic societies don't make clear to their citizens how comprehensively governments reach into the private lives of individuals. We have no way of knowing what our government can come to know about us as private citizens," says John Palfrey of the OpenNet Initiative, an international academic research group that monitors government internet filtering and surveillance.
China recently announced new internet censorship policies, which will severely restrict all video sharing websites such as YouTube that are not state controlled.