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      Who’s watching us? In providing evidence-based answers to this question, SMEX is pleased to announce the launch of an in-depth research on electronic surveillance practices in Lebanon. Over 12 months, the project will establish a baseline of knowledge about electronic surveillance of people in Lebanon. The findings will then be used to raise public awareness and launch further investigation through reporting fellowships.

New e-government programs, biometric passports, and citywide surveillance have been recently introduced in Lebanon, yet with no legal frameworks to safeguard privacy online or electronic data. This exposes netizens personally identifiable information (PII) to grave dangers, making it urgent to raise awareness and correct misinformation among the public about the risks of unprotected user data.

As a local specialist on government surveillance practices, SMEX will lead desk research, fellowships, and public events to produce and present the evidence-based research on surveillance and private data protection. The project will proceed through three phases:

Phase 1 (July-September 2016): SMEX will conduct desk research to conduct a literature review of existing knowledge about government privacy and surveillance practices in Lebanon. It will also convene a meeting of local experts to help with contextual analysis and identify lesser-known sources and information-gathering strategies. This will be compiled into a research brief that will provide invaluable quantitative and qualitative research information.

Phase 2 (October 2016 – May 2017):  The research brief will be distributed along with a fellowship application soliciting proposals from journalists to pursue in-depth research on a related topic in Lebanon. The journalists will then begin their work, document their investigative process, as well as publish three blog posts and write a final investigative report.

Phase 3 (June – July 2017): The journalists and SMEX will convene a public event to present the results of their investigations and discuss next steps.

The original research produced will assist journalists and policy-makers in identifying areas for legal and policy reform, ensuring they respect internationally recognized norms, best practices, human and civil rights. It builds on its previous collaboration with PI on the 2015 joint stakeholder report on the right to privacy in Lebanon.

Get in touch with SMEX if you wish to get involved, share information, suggest a topic for investigation, or receive more information on the fellowship process.