News / Science & Technology

UN: Digital Snooping Becoming the Norm

FILE - U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay.
FILE - U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay.
Lisa Schlein

A new United Nations report warns mass digital surveillance poses a threat to peoples’ right to privacy and is becoming a dangerous habit rather than an exceptional measure.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, whose office produced the report, is calling for stronger safeguards against this mass surveillance to protect against violations of human rights.

The report warns that digital snooping is increasing and occurring in countries all over the world. It says the incidences may be greater in governments equipped with better technology.

But the report also says oversight of digital surveillance programs in most countries is inadequate and, therefore, open to abuse.

Pillay says states must show their surveillance programs are being used for legitimate law enforcement or intelligence purposes, and that it is up to government officials to prove these programs do not arbitrarily or unlawfully gather private information.

She says states have an obligation to balance their need for security with their need to protect people’s right to privacy.

“I, of course, support the efforts made in the United States and other countries to safeguard all of us from acts of terrorism," said Pillay. "After all states have an obligation to protect all their citizens against the harm of terrorism. On the other hand, what are the checks and balances? What kind of safeguards should be in place and how should states be encouraged to update their laws and so on to keep pace with these developments?”

The report notes strong evidence of governments' growing reliance on the private sector to conduct and facilitate digital surveillance. Pillay says she is disturbed by the methods governments are using to collect metadata on their own citizens as well as on foreigners.

“Some governments have reportedly threatened to ban services of telecommunications companies unless given direct access to telecommunication traffic. Others have tapped fiber optic cables … for surveillance purposes, or required companies systematically to disclose bulk information on customers and employees. Some have used communication surveillance to target political opposition or dissidents," she said.

Pillay warns that companies which supply data to a state in violation of human rights law risk being complicit or involved with human rights abuses.

The commissioner also stressed the importance of protecting so-called whistleblowers, people who disclose human rights violations. She refused to say whether intelligence analyst Edward Snowden should be pardoned for having revealed the mass surveillance program being run by the United States National Security Agency.

Snowden’s revelations go to the core of the debate regarding the need for transparency, and for that, everyone owes him a debt, she said.

The U.N. report raises concerns about surveillance programs based on racial profiling or which target certain ethnic or religious groups. It says such practices violate international human rights law.

 

You May Like

Anti-Terror Drills Highlight China’s Push Into Central Asia

China, Russia, several central Asian countries wrap up massive anti terrorism military drills in Inner Mongolia More

Erdogan’s First Step: Secure More Power in New Role in Turkey

Erdogan was sworn in as Turkey's first popularly elected president on Thursday; he picked former foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu as PM More

Pakistan Army Fails to Break Political Deadlock

PM Sharif claims he didn't ask army to defuse crisis; military rejects claim More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Anonymous
July 16, 2014 11:28 PM
Really, with all due respect the UN High Comissioner for Human Rights should not be a "digital policeman". Since when has digital snooping become more dangerous than an AK 47 bullet, especially in Africa.? Real human rights in Africa is what she should be focusing on and justice at the Hague instead of avoiding the realities of life.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assaulti
X
Daniel Schearf
August 29, 2014 9:30 PM
After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.

AppleAndroid