IGF 2023 WS #564 Beneath the Shadows: Private Surveillance in Public Spaces

Wednesday, 11th October, 2023 (00:45 UTC) - Wednesday, 11th October, 2023 (01:45 UTC)
WS 1 – Annex Hall 1

Data Governance & Trust
Data Privacy and Protection

Organizer 1: Barbara Simão, 🔒InternetLab
Organizer 2: Laura Matta, InternetLab
Organizer 3: Anna Martha Araujo, InternetLab

Speaker 1: Swati Punia, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 2: Felipe Freitas, Government, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 3: Chris Wilson, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 4: Beth Kerley, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Additional Speakers

Heloisa Massaro - InternetLab

Yasodara Cordova - Principal Privacy Researcher - Unico

Estela Aranha - Ministry of Justice, Brazil


Barbara Simão, Technical Community, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)

Online Moderator

Laura Matta, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)


Anna Martha Araujo, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)


Round Table - 60 Min

Policy Question(s)

A. What are the broader societal implications of extensive surveillance and their impact on human rights? How does private surveillance affect historically marginalized groups? B. How does the lack of transparency required from private surveillance companies affect human rights? What are the dangers concerning third-party sharing with other private institutions or public authorities without transparency? C. What are the liabilities that insufficient legal protections regarding the shared use of data pose to individuals and groups? Does the current regulatory landscape for privacy give us sufficient protections to ensure the enforcement of human rights and equitable access to public spaces?

What will participants gain from attending this session? Participants can anticipate an engaging discussion that critically examines the challenges posed by private cameras in shared and public spaces. The session will provide insights into the risks involved, potential exclusion of marginalized groups, and propose regulatory solutions to safeguard privacy, human rights, and ensure equitable access to public spaces. Participants should expect to gain a deeper understanding on the technical limitations and legal gaps involved in private surveillance, as well as an insight into possibly regulatory solutions which maintain the interest of ensuring security but establish boundaries to promote justice and equality, preserving key values such as freedom of expression, association and privacy.


In the past decade, global installations of smart cameras in private households have surged to over 98 million in 2023 (Statista). Simultaneously, the deployment of closed-circuit television (CCTV) in shared and public spaces, such as schools, streets, workplaces, and commercial areas, has significantly increased. Notably, in Brazil, startups engaged in surveillance solutions have established informal partnerships with police authorities, bypassing legal requirements for judicial orders. This lack of oversight raises concerns about the flow of personal information to public authorities. This session will explore the risks associated with the widespread adoption of 24/7 surveillance solutions in public spaces, focusing on the following areas: - Privacy and Human Rights: Investigate potential infringements on privacy and human rights resulting from constant surveillance in public spaces. Discuss the implications of unauthorized access to camera recordings, including voyeurism, state or police surveillance, and criminal exploitation. - Exclusion and Discrimination: Recognize the broader societal implications of extensive surveillance. Analyze how the proliferation of private cameras in specific areas may exclude historically marginalized groups, perpetuating social inequalities and discrimination. - Lack of Transparency and Data Sharing: Expose the rise of companies offering 24-hour surveillance solutions without transparent criteria for data sharing. Analyze the potential consequences of granting third-party access to camera data, whether by private or public entities. - Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities: Examine the vulnerabilities of smart camera technology, exposing individuals to criminal abuse like hacking by private or public entities. Highlight global cases illustrating the potential threats in this domain. The session will evaluate existing privacy regulations and their effectiveness in addressing these practices. Ethical and legal implications of security camera adoption will be discussed, with a focus on understanding how individual and group interactions with common areas and public spaces are affected.

Expected Outcomes

InternetLab annually organizes the "International Conference on Fundamental Rights and Criminal Procedure in the Digital Age," gathering key stakeholders from the Brazilian judiciary. The conference's proceedings are compiled into a book distributed to over 200 addresses, including appellate court judges and supreme court justices. It serves as a crucial platform to discuss the impact of investigative capabilities on democracy, particularly within the Global South. Building on this event's momentum, we will conduct comprehensive research on the constitutional and regulatory aspects, as well as the limitations and human rights risks associated with widespread deployment of private cameras in public spaces. Our findings will be published and shared in the coming year, contributing valuable insights to the ongoing discourse. During the IGF discussions, we will gather further insights to enrich our research, focusing on human rights, regulatory considerations, and the potential consequences of private cameras in public spaces.

Hybrid Format: We will adopt a dynamic format for the session, where each speaker will address specific questions posed by the moderators. This format allows for focused discussions and ensures active engagement. Each speaker will have two rounds of five minutes, totaling 40 minutes of speaking time. The remaining 20 minutes will be dedicated to audience interventions, both from the onsite and online participants. The online moderator will facilitate the discussion by posting questions in the chat, encouraging reflection and participation from all attendees. The presence of an online moderator is essential for gathering insights from the online audience and addressing any technical issues that may arise, such as connectivity problems. The moderators will provide a summary of the speeches, if necessary, in Portuguese and Spanish, and will also ask additional questions to foster further discussion.

Key Takeaways (* deadline 2 hours after session)

The discussion should shift from the nature of data collected, be it biometric or other, to the critical question of data control. Emphasizing who governs the data is paramount for privacy and human rights. Civil society and academia should focus on uncovering data flows and ensuring accountability of both the private sector and government.

Urgent international efforts are required to establish robust privacy regulations globally for private surveillance in public spaces, safeguarding human rights and ensuring transparent data sharing. Genuine collaboration among governments, civil society, and the private sector is essential for the formulation and enforcement of these regulations.

Call to Action (* deadline 2 hours after session)

Civil society organizations, academia, and the private sector has to collaborate on research and advocacy efforts, with a focus on uncovering the flow of data and holding both private surveillance companies and government authorities accountable for their actions. This collaborative approach will help build a more transparent and just environment for private surveillance in public spaces.

Governments and regulatory bodies must proactively develop and implement comprehensive privacy regulations for private surveillance in public spaces. These regulations must address data control, transparency in data sharing, and protection of human rights. It is imperative that these stakeholders work collectively to ensure the proper oversight and enforcement of these regulations to safeguard individual freedoms.