The Canadian International Development Research Centre has awarded a $1m contract to UK-based civil rights campaign group Privacy International to set up an Asian privacy network.
Announcing the deal at Privacy International's 20th anniversary celebration in London, executive director Simon Davies said the network would include Bangladesh, India, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines and Thailand. It would monitor threats to citizens privacy and try to raise awareness of the need for privacy in an increasingly digital world, he said.
The deal follows a report on privacy in Asia that Privacy International produced last November. It found "a mounting level of concern about telemarketing, the abuse of databases and financial information, identity fraud, and other privacy-related issues".
It said the situation in Iran was a case in point. "For years we recommended against surveillance schemes in democratic countries, as well as their technical standards for surveillance in telecommunications systems," it said. "The response from governments was that they were democratic governments and so surveillance would always take place in accordance with international human rights instruments.
"What we are now seeing is that these technologies, devised in Europe and North America, are now part of the political arsenal of more problematic regimes, and are being abused."
Privacy International said it would feed back this information to policy-makers in other countries to warn them about the dangers of wrong decisions and of setting poor examples that would be replicated elsewhere.