General Assembly Should Pass Strong Resolution on the Right to Privacy in the Digital Age
(New York) – The United Nations General Assembly should approve a new resolution and make clear that indiscriminate surveillance is never consistent with the right to privacy, five human rights organizations said in a November 20, 2013 letter to members of the United Nations General Assembly.
After heated negotiations, the draft resolution on digital privacy initiated by Brazil and Germany emerged on November 20 relatively undamaged, despite efforts by the United States and other members of the “Five Eyes” group to weaken its language. Although a compromise avoided naming mass extraterritorial surveillance explicitly as a “human rights violation,” the resolution directs the UN high commissioner for human rights to report to the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly on the protection and promotion of privacy “in the context of domestic and extraterritorial surveillance... including on a mass scale.” The resolution will ensure that this issue stays on the front burner at the UN. A vote on the resolution is expected in the next week.
The resolution would be the first major statement by the UN on privacy in 25 years, crucially reiterating the importance of protecting privacy and free expression in the face of technological advancements and encroaching state power.
“We are deeply concerned that the countries representing the ‘Five Eyes’ surveillance alliance – the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and the United Kingdom – have sought to weaken the resolution at the risk of undercutting their own longstanding public commitment to privacy and free expression,” the groups said in their letter.
In adopting this resolution, the General Assembly should take a stand against indiscriminate practices such as mass surveillance, interception, and data collection, both at home and abroad, the groups said. In doing so they will also support the right of all individuals to use information and communications technologies such as the Internet without fear of unwarranted interference.
The groups that signed the letter are:
The Electronic Frontier Foundation
Human Rights Watch