By now you are probably already participating in the fireworks triggered by the leak of a secret court order requiring Verizon to hand over all call data to the NSA. Mass surveillance was a well known threat – but now we have proof that the USA do it… Will that be the wake-up call for increased political awareness ? I’m not holding my breath…
US Senators don’t seem to have realized the extent of public outrage – witness comments such as “This is nothing particularly new… Every member of the United States Senate has been advised of this”… Mass surveillance ? Yes we can !
All that would not have happened if Obama had been elected.
Anyway, a couple of months ago, Frank La Rue, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Opinion, has reported to the UN Human Rights Council, making a connection between surveillance and free expression. It establishes the principle that countries that engage in bulk, warrantless Internet surveillance are violating their human rights obligations to ensure freedom of expression. Was that report prescient ? Is it part of a new trend at the UN ? Here are a few choice morsels from the conclusions of this extensive piece of research:
79. States cannot ensure that individuals are able to freely seek and receive information or express themselves without respecting, protecting and promoting their right to privacy. Privacy and freedom of expression are interlinked and mutually dependent; an infringement upon one can be both the cause and consequence of an infringement upon the other.
80. In order to meet their human rights obligations, States must ensure that the rights to freedom of expression and privacy are at the heart of their communications surveillance frameworks.
81. Communications surveillance should be regarded as a highly intrusive act that potentially interferes with the rights to freedom of expression and privacy and threatens the foundations of a democratic society.
Clear enough for y’all ? The report was in no way aiming at the US of A but today’s revelations makes it difficult to read it without thinking about them…
Mass surveillance is like searching every single home in the whole country because some of them might hide something illegal. With such massive indiscriminate intrusion in private lives, secrecy isn’t kept to avoid “tipping off the target” – it is about avoiding legitimate public outrage at misguided actions outside of any effective control, that undermine the very foundations of what we strive for.