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

    Hope Remains for Rio Olympic Games, Despite Woes

    Facing a host of problems, Rio prepares for holding the games but experts say some risks, like Zika, may not be as grave as initially thought

    IS Use of Social Media to Recruit, Radicalize Still a Top Threat to US

    Despite military gains against IS in Iraq and Syria, their internet propaganda still commands an audience; US officials see 'the most complex challenge that the federal government and industry face'

    ‘Time Is Now’ to Save Africa’s Animals From Poachers, Activist Says

    During Zimbabwe visit, African Wildlife Foundation President Kaddu Sebunya says poaching hurts Africa as slave trade once did

    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.
    Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolatei
    X
    July 29, 2016 4:02 PM
    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolate

    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Tesla Opens Battery-Producing Gigafactory

    Two years after starting to produce electric cars, U.S. car maker Tesla Motors has opened the first part of its huge battery manufacturing plant, which will eventually cover more than a square kilometer. Situated close to Reno, Nevada, the so-called Gigafactory will eventually produce more lithium-ion batteries than were made worldwide in 2013. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Polio-affected Afghan Student Fulfilling Her Dreams in America

    Afghanistan is one of only two countries in the world where children still get infected by polio. The other is Pakistan. Mahbooba Akhtarzada who is from Afghanistan, was disabled by polio, but has managed to overcome the obstacles caused by this crippling disease. VOA's Zheela Nasari caught up with Akhtarzada and brings us this report narrated by Bronwyn Benito.
    Video

    Video Hillary Clinton Promises to Build a 'Better Tomorrow'

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged voters Thursday not to give in to the politics of fear. She vowed to unite the country and move it forward if elected in November. Clinton formally accepted the Democratic Party's nomination at its national convention in Philadelphia. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more.
    Video

    Video Trump Tones Down Praise for Russia

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is toning down his compliments for Russia and Vladimir Putin as such rhetoric got him in trouble recently. After calling on Russia to find 30.000 missing emails from rival Hillary Clinton, Trump told reporters he doesn't know Putin and never called him a great leader, just one who's better than President Barack Obama. Putin has welcomed Trump's overtures, but, as Zlatica Hoke reports, ordinary Russians say they are not putting much faith in Trump.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora