When it comes to privacy rights, Canada ranks among the top defenders while Britain is considered one of the worstprotectors, according to a new survey.
Privacy International, a watchdog group that studies government and businesssurveillance and privacy practices, rated 36 countries, including 25 EU member states, on 13 national practices.
Thepractices included statutory and constitutional protections, the use of ID cards and closed circuit TV cameras. The countrieswere given a rankingfrom one to five — five points denoting no invasive policies, and one point for extensive surveillance.
Germany (3.9)was ranked the highest, followed by Canada (3.6). They were the only two listed in the category of "significant protections and safeguards."
The two countrieswere followed by Belgium and Austria (3.2), and Hungary (3.1).
Britainranked alongside Russia and China as countries demonstrating "endemic surveillance" of its citizens.
China and Malaysia (1.3)ranked at the bottom, followed by Singapore and Russia (1.4), and the U.K. (1.5).
The U.S. scored a 2, putting it in the "extensive surveillance society" category. In terms of statutory protections and privacy enforcement, the U.S. was ranked the worst in the democratic world.
'Waking up to surveillance society'
"This is damning evidence that privacy is being destroyed by the very nations that proclaim to respect our rights," Simon Davies, director of Privacy International, said in a statement.
The survey comes as Britain's information commissioner warns his country has become a surveillance society.
"Two years ago I questioned, 'Are we sleepwalking into a surveillance society,'" said Richard Thomas. "Now I have to say we're waking up to a surveillance society."
The primary source of that information is closed circuit television cameras, the CBC's Harry Forestell reported. The streets of British cities, towns and villages are monitored by 4.2 million closed circuit cameras— one for every 14 people.
Every person, on average, is viewed by 300 cameras a day. Police use facial and licence plate recognition technology to track anyone who looks suspicious.
British police are also allowed to demand DNA samples from anyone they detain, even if they haven't been formally arrested or charged with a crime.
Authorities hold more than 3.5 million sub-samples— the largestDNA databank in the world.
However, much of the information can be used for good, Forestell said. Video cameras have dramatically increased conviction rates for some crimes and DNA evidence has helped police solve a backlog of crimes.