Two years ago, civil society organizations met in Madrid to draft a Declaration that reaffirmed international standards for Internet privacy. On October 31, civil society groups will meet again in Mexico City to review the Madrid Privacy Declaration and examine privacy laws and policies in Latin America and around the world. This gathering is being organized by The Public Voice, a coalition of global civil society groups that promotes privacy and free expression on the Internet. EFF is part of this coalition and will be presenting at the conference. The event will be held in conjunction with the 33rd Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners Conference.

The Public Voice conference will review the protection of privacy rights outlined in the Madrid Privacy Declaration and consider strategies to expand these protections. It will also look at larger questions such as whether privacy and data protection is really dependent on cultural and generational differences as is often claimed.

Is it true that some countries and communities are more tolerant of privacy invasions and data sharing? How can policy analysts determine what people around the world really think about their right to privacy? How do governments make use of this information as they develop privacy policies and legislative measures? The Public Voice conference will look at whether legislation and implementation of national privacy laws actually reflect the needs of civil society.

Other panels at the Public Voice will examine specific issues such as how social media can be used to help safeguard freedom of expression without undermining norms and laws protecting privacy. Evolving data protection legislation will be discussed, such as the complex Droit d' Oubli or “right to forget” concept that was first debated in France and is now being promoted by Viviane Redding, European Commissioner responsible for justice, fundamental rights and citizenship. Can digital communications technology support a right that prevents individuals from being held accountable for unguarded actions of their past?

In addition to policy issues, the Public Voice conference will help raise public awareness of emerging surveillance technologies such as facial recognition applications, employment verification programs, automobile black boxes, Internet identification systems and emerging technologies like smart meters that track electricity usage. Panels will consider how the public can access different forms of tracking technology for private use. How do these new forms of technology threaten privacy? What happens when collecting intimate details about a person’s life is valued above all else? Can technology, policy and innovation work together to support both privacy and security?

These questions are particularly pressing in Latin America where many democratically elected governments still fail to respect human rights, including the right to privacy. There have been multiple scandals involving government officials and intelligence agencies engaged in illegal surveillance and misuse of interception technologies to spy on politicians, dissidents, judges, human rights organizations and activists. Disclosed data gathering programs have provided a glimpse of concealed surveillance architectures that are used as political tools to identify, control and stifle dissent.

Members of civil society deprived of their privacy must fight back! Show the world how surveillance technology impacts human rights and freedom of expression. Help pressure governments in Latin America and throughout the world to pass meaningful privacy protections. Registration for the Public Voice event is free. Come and join us. Blog and tweet the discussions at #tpv11. Fight for everyone’s right to privacy!

Before the Public Voice conference, EFF will visit evolving hackerspaces in Mexico. Join us for the HackLab event HACKMITIN 2011 from October 28 – 30. Learn more about hacklabs in Mexico. See you there.