The Capstone team consulted with Access Now to provide a snapshot of the current global legal structures that permit domestic surveillance and analyzed how these legal frameworks are applied in practice. 

Research methodology consisted of reviewing primary legal sources (statutes, constitutions, international conventions, court cases) and secondary sources (advocacy materials, academic papers, media articles), as well as conducting interviews with lawyers, human rights activists, scholars, and journalists. 

Through their research the team identified several common trends across countries.  Namely, nations create new and often more restrictive surveillance laws citing counterterrorism and national security efforts.  Countries frequently violate international commitments they have made regarding the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCR) and other international statues.  Governments demonstrate secrecy, outright deception, and/or indifference towards internet users.  Ambiguous and vague legal language leads to various interpretations of the laws. Each of these trends were documented in the project country reports.

Based on their findings, the team provided the following recommendations for future advocacy efforts:

  • Requesting primary government documents through Freedom of Information laws to create a complete picture of the scope of government surveillance activities. Supporting the development and/or maintenance of Freedom of Information laws in target countries.
  • Clearly defining what an NGO considers sensitive information, privacy, terrorism, and security to assure more effective advocacy.
  • Explaining the situations in which court cases have permitted monitoring personal information to help create guidelines for when governments may access communications data, including metadata.
  • Understand the historical and cultural context of the legal framework of each country to shape human rights requests unique to that country.