from the wonders-will-never-cease dept
The world of online privacy was changed forever by Edward Snowden's revelations of massive, global spying by the US, UK and others. And the repercussions of his actions continue to make themselves felt. Two countries particularly affected by the surveillance conducted against them, Germany and Brazil, have led efforts to appoint a new rapporteur (special expert) for privacy at the United Nations Human Rights Council, and with surprising success. Despite fears that the US or UK might try to block the move, or neuter the role, they both accepted the following resolution, which was adopted by consensus, without a vote:
The Council invites the Special Rapporteur to include in the first report considerations on the right to privacy in the digital age; calls upon all States to cooperate fully with and assist the Special Rapporteur in the performance of the mandate, including by providing all necessary information requested by him or her, to respond promptly to his or her urgent appeals and other communications, to consider favourably the mandate holder’s requests to visit their countries and to consider implementing the recommendations made by the mandate holder in his or her reports.
It will be interesting to see what happens when the Rapporteur comes calling on the NSA and GCHQ asking for more details of their surveillance operations. The resolution affirmed a general right to privacy:
according to which no one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy, family, home or correspondence, and the right to the protection of the law against such interference...; recognizes the global and open nature of the Internet and the rapid advancement in information and communications technology as a driving force in accelerating progress towards development in its various forms; and affirms that the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, including the right to privacy.
The Rapporteur will have no real powers to demand information or enforce recommendations. But at the very least, the creation of this new role will help to increase international awareness of the importance of privacy in the digital world, and of the scale of the threats ranged against it.