Bulk Collection: Systematic Government Access to Private-Sector Data

Bulk Collection: Systematic Government Access to Private-Sector Data



This book is the culmination of nearly six years of research initiated by Fred Cate and Jim Dempsey to examine national practices and laws regarding systematic government access to personal information held by private-sector companies. Leading an effort sponsored by The Privacy Projects, they commissioned a series of country reports, asking national experts to uncover what they could about government demands on telecommunications providers and other private-sector companies to disclose bulk information about their customers. Their initial research found disturbing indications of systematic access in countries around the world. These data collection programs, often undertaken in the name of national security, were cloaked in secrecy and largely immune from oversight, posing serious threats to personal privacy. After the Snowden leaks confirmed these initial findings, the project morphed into something more ambitious: an effort to explore what should be the rules for government access to private-sector data, and how companies should respond to government demands for access.

This book contains twelve updated country reports plus eleven analytic chapters that present descriptive and normative frameworks for assessing national surveillance laws, survey evolving international law and human rights principles applicable to government surveillance, and describe oversight mechanisms. It also explores the concept of accountability and the role of encryption in shaping the surveillance debate. Cate and Dempsey conclude by offering recommendations for both governments and industry.


9780190685515 (hb.)

Publication Date



Oxford University Press


New York, NY


Intellectual Property, Data Collection, Government Information, Electronic Records, Right of Privacy, Data Protection, Electronic Surveillance, Data Transmission Systems


Intellectual Property Law | International Law | Internet Law | Law | Science and Technology Law


Complete bibliographic information available HERE.

Electronic copy available to subscribers of Oxford Scholarship Online, HERE.

Copies available in the Jerome Hall Law Library, K 3264 .C65 B85 2017.

In addition to serving as one of the editors of the volume, Professor Cate co-authored three chapters:

  • Chapter 9: "Systematic Government Access to Private-Sector Data in the United States II: The US Supreme Court and Information Privacy (co-written with Beth E. Cate).
  • Chapter 15: "Organizational Accountability, Government Use of Private-Sector Data, National Security, and Individual Privacy (co-written with James X. Dempsey and Martin Abrams).
  • Chapter 23: "Recommendations for Government and Industry (co-written with James X. Dempsey).

Bulk Collection: Systematic Government Access to Private-Sector Data