Our Mission

Who we are
Always Watching ("AW") is a collective dedicated to reporting on the (mis)use of technology to infringe on individuals’ human rights.

Every contributor to AW has a deep commitment to protecting the right to privacy and civil liberties, ensuring that actions threatening these rights and principles, be they posed by individuals, organizations, or governments, are pointed out and analyzed.

As national legislation struggles to keep up with intrusive data collection practices, spyware, biometric, and algorithmic monitoring, we hope to bring individuals’ attention to these practices.

What we stand for
2023 was a watershed year for mass surveillance technologies. Spyware revealed itself to be a multi-billion dollar industry which dominated headlines, with governments being ready to pay dearly to leverage these sophisticated tools to spy on journalists, political opponents, and members of civil society. In a context of heightened social strife and geopolitical tensions, we saw liberal democratic governments increasingly use intrusive technologies to monitor swathes of their populations. All of this was underpinned by what could truly be called a a surveillance industry that is eager to supply the tools and collect the data for the right price.

The usage of these tools was not followed by pedagogical efforts to instruct the population on their implications for human rights and civil liberties. Indeed, for several years already, people openly admit to have given up on their privacy rights to be able to use their devices, services, and applications.

We don’t believe that this model is inevitable. We don’t believe in trading enshrined rights for convenience and are concerned as they are eroded further by the day. We stand for human rights, for individual privacy and security. We stand for the right to be forgotten, for the right to protest, and to express oneself.

What we are watching
While the world moves toward an evermore connected society at a breakneck speed, it is important that we analyze how, why, and what is changing. Our focus may shift over time as we evolve, but the areas of focus in writing will focus on the following:

  • Surveillance capitalism, keeping track of the entities trading in surveillance and how they use user data to turn a profit.
  • Algorithmic policing and the increasing usage of biometrics and algorithms to monitor and criminalize segments of the population across the globe.
  • Artificial Intelligence; demystifying how it works, how it is used, and how “artificial“ this industry voracious in human, logistical, and natural resources this technology really is.
  • Disinformation and looking at the ways technology is increasingly being used to shape global opinion by global powers.
  • Spyware, an incredibly lucrative industry thriving off of deep privacy violations targeting journalists, civil society members, and elected officials.
    We want to help people understand what is at stake in these practices by analyzing individual cases and contextualizing them to provide a global view of their usage. How are trends changing? How has the situation evolved, and why?

What we see ahead
As governments and services are increasingly taken online and migrated to the digital space, we see that frameworks that would protect citizens from their misuse are lacking. Although life was made simpler, the whiplash inducing pace of digitalization has left courts and governments unable to keep up; accountability is lacking and violations are rife. As social crises and war multiply across the globe, we see frightening patterns of use in the present and concerning implications on the horizon. We do not accept this as an inevitable outcome, but recognize that there is currently insufficient awareness and transparency.

Our Inspirations
In this endeavour, we are oriented by works such as Shoshana Zuboff’s Age of Surveillance Capitalism. At this time, her book stands as one of the first and most comprehensive studies and cartographies of a swathe of our economic models resting on data extraction and privacy violations.

The work of organizations such as the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab is a strong impetus for our work. The same is true for organizations such as Amnesty International, which have recognized the impact of surveillance technologies on human rights. The Citizen Lab has collaborated with a number of non-governmental organizations like Amnesty International on this topic, producing technical and legal insights contributing to a holistic understanding of how surveillance technologies threaten rights and humanity writ large.