Our mission is to protect human rights, in particular the right to privacy, in the clash with modern technology used for surveillance purposes. We want to analyse the risks associated with the operation of modern surveillance systems, monitor the actions of both public and private entities in this and intervene when human rights or democratic values are threatened.
We are not opposed to the use of modern technology. However, what we do care about is the preparation of legal solutions that will strike a balance between competing values, such as security and freedom.
We do believe that aspirations to increase public security or broadly conceived efficiency should not be pursued at the cost of the right to privacy and individual freedom. Our aim is to provoke social discussion on the reasons, signs and consequences of this phenomenon.
Why the Panoptykon Foundation was set up?
The ever‐increasing presence of new technologies in our everyday life, the increasing social "demand for security" and the more and more extensive interference of public institutions in the sphere of citizens’ privacy generate new challenges.
We are witnessing increasing attempts to subject the life of individuals and social activity in general to various forms of surveillance. The key change consists in the increasingly dominant use of modern technologies to facilitate interference with our privacy in more hidden ways, by the so-called „small steps” strategy: from surveillance in public transport and our workplace to an integrated EU security policy.
One can observe the rapidly growing number of databases– created both for public needs and for commercial purposes – and intensive co‐operation between very different entities for the purposes of exchanging and analysing the information gathered. The use of advanced surveillance technologies, such as video monitoring (CCTV), monitoring of financial cash flows or of the behaviour of Internet users, is also becoming common.
These practices are being implemented more and more often at the cost of fundamental rights, in particular personal freedom, right to privacy and information autonomy. There are insufficient legal safeguards to protect fundamental values in the clash with modern technology used for surveillance purposes, which is becoming more and more widespread.
Moreover, the level of society's knowledge about these phenomena and the awareness of particular threats seem to be far from sufficient. Quite the opposite: the conviction that gathering and processing of data constitute an indispensable element of modern life has become a part of the dominating public discourse. We believe the essential problem is the lack of serious and well‐reasoned public debate on the legal and social issues triggered by the development of surveillance society.
The Panoptykon Foundation was set up to address the above issues.
How we act
Monitoring risks and legal abuses
In co‐operation with specialists in various areas of the law, we monitor legal solutions, both those in force and those proposed, including those at EU level. We analyse them from the point of view of the right to privacy and respect for human dignity.
In co-operation with investigative journalists we are also trying to monitor the activity of public and private entities that use advance surveillance techniques in order to identify possible areas of abuse.
We are trying to act as a public spokesman when human rights are threatened by the oppressive use of surveillance technologies. Primarily, we prepare drafts of amendments to existing laws and legal opinions to new legislative proposals in the Parliament. Other actions include: writing open letters targeting relevant bodies and institutions, instigating and joining administrative proceedings before the General Inspector for Data Protection, Internet campaigns.
Recently we have intervened against: (i) introducing a so-called “personalised municipal cards” in Warsaw as the only means of paying for long-term public transport tickets; (ii) the creation of the Register of Prohibited Websites and Services, which by its very nature would infringe constitutional rights.
Research, public discussion, education
In co‐operation with lawyers, sociologists, journalists and experts from other fields we analyse surveillance‐related issues from various research perspectives. We use conferences and public seminars to inspire an interdisciplinary debate. Its aim is to analyse the reasons, manifestations and social consequences of the development of surveillance society.
We organise monthly seminars titled “Conversations about Surveillance Society” open to the public and hosting experts on the topic, such as researchers, public officials or experienced professionals. These meetings provide space for open discussion and exchange between experts and the general public. Each seminar is devoted to a different aspect of modern surveillance, e.g. CCTV, integration of public databases, data retention or obligatory medical examinations.
We are trying to introduce the issue of surveillance into the mainstream public discourse through the media. We aim to enrich the debate in the media – so far insufficient and fragmentary – with substantial, reasoned arguments and a broader outlook on this issue. provide information on the risks associated with the use of surveillance techniques on a large scale. We publicize and comment on cases of abuse. Our media presence is constantly increasing.