In the context of this handbook, we regard civil society organisations (CSOs) as those non-profit, non-governmental organisations concerned with and by surveillance practices, including CSOs that focus on privacy and human and fundamental rights as well as those that may be impacted by surveillance activities. Examples of the latter may be trade unions and student associations. CSOs include formally established organisations as well as those that have no formal institution – for example, ad hoc groups formed in response to a specific surveillance practice or issue.
Civil society organisations are an important link between individuals and other stakeholders, from political institutions to companies and the media. While their degree of institutionalisation, and their ability to mobilise resources and political and media attention vary widely, they offer a forum for discussion by participating individuals, and potentially a platform to require further information and advance claims.
- Are we sufficiently informed about the (constantly evolving) nature of surveillance and its effects to be able to analyse surveillance policies and implementation of surveillance technologies? How can we improve our information resources?
- Do we have the means (adequate information and knowledge) to discern whether and how new surveillance measures may touch upon society? Do we have the means to assess the potential consequences of these measures?
- Have we developed adequate resources to promote greater public awareness of surveillance and means of resisting surveillance? How can we improve these resources?
- Are we aware of the institutional and non-institutional means to resist and overcome surveillance? Do we have access to these means, or do we have the relevant skills?
- Can we exercise any influence to resist the introduction of new and objectionable surveillance measures, by either the government or companies? How?
- Have we contributed to the formulation of public policies (e.g., via consultations) such that surveillance concerns and threats are taken into account? Are we able to assess the impact of these contributions, and can we improve them?
- Have we engaged in any activities that help oppose surveillance – e.g., boycotts, campaigns, complaints, court challenges, demonstrations? Did we make an impact on the decisions? Have we developed specific skills?
- How is the surveillance policy perpetuating vulnerabilities of our societies, contributing to the frailty of our democratic practices?
- What are the obstacles to our engagement with surveillance issues, and how can these best be overcome?
- How can we most effectively play a role in voicing concerns, stimulating public debate, and exerting policy influence in relation to surveillance issues?
- Are we helping those who have been harmed by surveillance (e.g., by providing a platform for voicing grievances and supporting their efforts to gain redress)?