Thursday, March 3, 2011

81 - Privacy International

Privacy International

About Privacy International:

Privacy International (PI) is a human rights group formed in 1990 as a watchdog on surveillance and privacy invasions by governments and corporations. PI is based in London, England, and has an office in Washington, D.C. We have campaigned across the world to protect people against intrusion by governments and corporations that seek to erode this fragile right. We believe that privacy forms part of the bedrock of freedoms, and our goal has always been to use every means to preserve it. For more information please click here. To donate to PI please click here. Follow us on Twitter or join our Facebook group.

About Privacy International


For nearly twenty years Privacy International (PI) has vigorously defended personal privacy. We have campaigned across the world to protect people against intrusion by governments and corporations that seek to erode this fragile right. We believe that privacy forms part of the bedrock of freedoms, and our goal has always been to use every means to preserve it. Our campaigns are often controversial, but they always respect the primacy of truth and principle.

PI is the oldest surviving privacy advocacy group in the world, and was the first organisation to campaign at an international level on privacy issues. Its antecedents stretch back to 1987, at which time the organisation’s founders started to build an international network in response to mounting concern across the world over the changing nature and magnitude of privacy violations.


In 1990, in response to a growing number of privacy threats, more than a hundred leading privacy experts and Human Rights organizations from forty countries linked arms to form a world organization for the protection of privacy. Members of the new body, including computer professionals, academics, lawyers, journalists, jurists and human rights activists, had a common interest in promoting an international understanding of the importance of privacy and data protection. Meetings of the group, which took the name Privacy International, were held throughout that year in North America, Europe, Asia and the South Pacific, and members agreed to work toward the establishment of effective privacy protection throughout the world.

The formation of Privacy International is the first successful attempt to establish a structured world focus on this crucial area of human rights.

Administration and Organisation

In the nineteen years since its first meeting in Luxembourg in 1990, PI has adopted a broad brief. We have organised more than 100 conferences and award ceremonies, participated in hundreds of national and international meetings, participated in an estimated 20,000 media interviews, organised campaigns, produced publications.

We are frequently called upon to give expert testimony to parliamentary and government committees, including those of the Australian, Canadian, South African, and United Kingdom Parliaments. We are the secretariat to the UK Parliament's All-Party Group on Privacy. We have also advised and reported to international and inter-governmental organisations including the Council of Europe, the European Parliament, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, and the United Nations (e.g. ECOSOC, UNDP, UNESCO, UNHCR, World Bank). PI now has active associates and networks in 40 countries.

PI is registered in the UK as a non-profit private limited company (no. 4354366).

Privacy International is a non-government organization with the primary role of advocacy and support. We have an international advisory board with members from 40 countries, and a board of trustees who oversee our staff.

Campaigns, Networking, and Research

According to our Memorandum of Association, PI's objectives are:

To raise awareness of and to provide education about threats to personal privacy;
To work at a national and international level toward the provision of strong and effective privacy law;
To monitor the nature, effectiveness and extent of measures to protect privacy and personal data;
To conduct research into threats to personal privacy;
To monitor and report on surveillance activities of security forces and intelligence agencies;
To scrutinise the nature, extent and implications of transborder flows of information;
To engage in advocacy at a national and international level such as making representations to bodies such as the United Nations, the Council of Europe and the OECD;
To seek ways through which information technology can be used in the protection of privacy.
PI deals at any one time with dozens of key issues. This year, our campaigns, media activity and projects encompassed continuing our work in promoting privacy safeguards in developing countries, working closely with free expression groups on the importance of protecting both privacy and free speech, monitoring and reporting on anti-terrorism policy developments in collaboration with the international community, and working with the private sector and government to promote and advance privacy protections.

We remain engaged with a variety of other issues on a regular basis, including identity and biometric systems, corporate governance, cross-border data flows, data retention by companies and governments, information security, national security, cybercrime and aspects of around a hundred technologies and technology applications ranging from video surveillance to DNA profiling. Our strategies of engagement included participating in judicial processes, and government consultations, filing legal complaints, research and report writing, running events and campaigns, and media awareness exercises.

PI is a chameleon-like group. It can in the same moment be described as troublemaker and think-tank, campaigner and researcher. Its staff and members embrace deeply held concerns about privacy, and they believe that the organisation should not be confined to a narrow mission and standard operating procedures. We see no problem in launching controversial and polemic wildcat campaigns while at the same time engaging in some of the field’s most elaborate and highly acclaimed research.

PI’s political profile has always confounded supporters and critics alike. To those on the left side of the political spectrum, we are considered 'libertarian'. Meanwhile conservatives and libertarians have described us as 'socialists'. The truth is that PI has always believed that privacy is apolitical by nature. This position is reflected in the composition of our Trustees and Board of advisors: on the traditional 'right', our members include Ayn Rand enthusiast Professor Ian Angell and politicians such as U.S. Presidential Candidate Bob Barr who ran on behalf of the Libertarian Party, and the Earl of Northesk who is a member of the House of Lords representing the Conservative Party; and on the 'liberal' or 'left' side of the political spectrum, our advisory board and trustees include world-renowned politicians, jurists and consumer advocates, including Professor Noam Chomsky, Sophie In't Veld who is a Member of the European Parliament for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (ALDE) Party, and numerous representatives from the Association for Progressive Communications. It is a pleasure to work with people from across the spectrum. We are also delighted to be respected or reviled in equal measure by all sides of politics.

Similarly, our public profile confounds many. We have been covered in nearly every major publication around the world (Click here for a small sample of our media coverage from 1996 to 2005 and click here to see some of our press releases.). We receive hundreds of emails and voicemails a week from the media and the public. Sometimes the public is seeking advice on corporate or government surveillance, other times they want to express their opinions regarding our campaigns. Their opinions range from outright support to utter contempt.

The variety of messages and media coverage that follows goes to show that people around the world are participating in debates about privacy. We believe that our most valuable role in these debates is to play both the vanguard and the lightning rod.

The network has also been used by law reform and human rights organisations in more than twenty countries to assist local privacy issues. In Thailand and the Philippines, for example, Privacy International worked with local human rights bodies to develop national campaigns against the establishment of government identity card systems. In Canada, New Zealand, the United States, Hungary, Australia and the United Kingdom we have promoted privacy issues through national media and through public campaigns. In Central and Eastern Europe, PI has been active in promoting government accountability through freedom of information acts. Click here to see some of our campaigns.

Finally, we conduct studies, write reports, and provide expert commentary on contemporary policy and technology issues. We do this work in order to intervene in policy processes, inform debate, and shape decisions. Click here to see a selection of our studies, reports, and commentaries.

PI also has an extensive archive of material on international privacy including major international agreements, country reports, and constitutions. We have archived this information on our website, available here. This is an ever-growing resource to advocates, practictioners, researchers and academics, and students. Click here to see our annual Privacy and Human Rights global survey.

Structure and Finances

Privacy International an independent non-profit organization chartered in the UK. Its U.S. organization is administered through the Fund for Constitutional Government in Washington DC.

Privacy International has received funding and support from a range of Foundations, academic establishments and non-government organisations. These include the Open Society Institute, the Open Society Justice Initiative, the European Parliament, the European Commission framework funding programmes, the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, The Fund for Constitutional Government, the Stern Foundation, the Privacy Foundation, the German Marshall Fund, and the University of New South Wales (Sydney).

Our financial reports and Articles of Incorporation are available through Companies House, UK, under our registration as a non-profit private limited company no. 4354366.

Privacy International is also minimally financed through contributions. (See our Support PI page). Also, our e-mail services are offered to us at a reduced rate by Neomailbox.

For transparency purposes, members of the public may access and review our activity reports, presented to our Annual General Meeting:

Contacting Privacy International
We welcome communications from the public. We are often overwhelmed with emails and telephone calls, but we will do everything we can to respond when we can.

Privacy International
265 Strand
United Kingdom

0208.123.7933 (from UK)
+ (outside UK)


For media, please contact us at

0208.123.7933 (from UK)
+ (outside UK)