In the wake of Edward Snowden’s NSA revelations and the UK’s increasing push to extend already very comprehensive surveillance powers, the United Nations human rights committee has passed a resolution reaffirming the ‘human right to privacy’, and calling on the UN’s human rights commissioner to open an inquiry on the impact of mass digital spying.
Titled ‘The right to privacy in the digital age’, the resolution states that the UN is,
‘Deeply concerned at the negative impact that surveillance and/or interception of communications … may have on the exercise and enjoyment of human rights.’
Although clearly aimed at the United States and its Five Eyes spying partners, the resolution (which was proposed by Brazil and Germany) unfortunately shied away from naming specific countries, and in a bid to appease those counties, reference to surveillance using metadata as an intrusive act was removed.
It is also non-binding, although if widely supported by enough of the UN’s 193 member states, will carry significant moral weight, and will hopefully provide privacy campaigners with additional gravitas and ammunition in their struggle against blanket global surveillance. Tomaso Falchetta, legal officer at Privacy International stated that,
‘The adoption of a much-needed resolution on the right to privacy is a welcomed step. The resolution’s principles and recommendations would, if reflected in governments’ policies, go a long way to address some of the serious concerns related to state’s surveillance practices in violation of the right to privacy and other human rights.’
The resolution will go before the full assembly before the end of the year, and if passed, will give the clearest indication yet of international disapproval at the NSA and its partners’ mass spying programs.
Of course, whether this will make a blind bit of difference to a county that has steadfastly ignored the UN’s warnings over extrajudicial killings performed by drone strikes remains to be seen…