The National Security Agency, FBI and other U.S. government strategies to spy on American citizens is getting attention from around the world.
And that’s not good.
More than 100 organizations, many from societies far less open and free than America, having signed onto the “International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance.”
Those signatories include 7iber from Jordan, the international Access organization, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, The Electronic Frontier Foundation, Russia’s Agentura.ru, a privacy group from Turkey, Indonesia’s Association of Community Internet Center – APWKomite1, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Pakistan’s Bolo Bhi, Colombia’s Fundacion Karisma, the Gulf Center for Human Rights and ICAK, of Kenya.
The document is a stand against “unchecked communications surveillance, calling for the governments around the world to follow international human rights law and curtail pervasive spying.”
The issue has been in the news worldwide since Edward Snowden, a former worker for a U.S. government contractor, released secrets that revealed the NSA was spying on Americans’ emails and telephones and the FBI was joining in.
The International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communication Surveillance are 13 guidelines “that spell out how existing human rights law applies to modern digital surveillance,” supporters explained.
“The principles include advice on how surveillance laws should respect the law, due process, and include public oversight and transparency. Current debates over government surveillance are often limited by outmoded definitions of content versus metadata, or stored data versus data in transit. The principles released today concentrate on the core issue: how human rights protect all information that reveals private information about an individual’s communications,” the organizations explained online.
“It’s time to restore human rights to their place at the very heart of the surveillance debate,” said EFF International Director Danny O’Brien. “Widespread government spying on communications interferes with citizens’ ability to enjoy a private life, and to freely express themselves – basic rights we all have. But the mass metadata collected in the U.S. surveillance program, for example, makes it extraordinarily easy for the government to track what groups we associate with and why we might contact them. These principles announced today represent a global consensus that modern surveillance has gone too far and must be restrained.”
Nearly four dozen nations are represented on the list.
“International human rights law binds every country across the globe to a basic respect for freedom of expression and personal privacy,” said EFF International Rights Director Katitza Rodriguez. “The pervasiveness of surveillance makes standing up for our digital rights more important than ever. And we need those rights to survive in a digital world, where any state can spy on us all, in more detail than ever before. We know that surveillance laws need to be transparent and proportionate, with judicial oversight, and that surveillance should only be used when absolutely necessary. Everything we’ve heard about the NSA programs indicate that they fall far outside these international human rights principles.”
The guidelines explain, “Privacy is a fundamental human right, and is central to the maintenance of democratic societies. It is essential to human dignity and it reinforces other rights, such as freedom of expression and information, and freedom of association, and is recognized under international human rights law. Activities that restrict the right to privacy, including communications surveillance, can only be justified when they are prescribed by law, they are necessary to achieve a legitimate aim, and are proportionate to the aim pursued.”
The principles include legality, legitimate aim, necessity, adequacy, proportionality, competent judicial authority, due process, user notification, transparency, public oversight, integrity of communications and systems, safeguards for international cooperation, and safeguards against illegitimate access.