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Human Rights and Constitutional Protections

Human rights conventions and national constitutions almost universally call for the protection of the right to privacy – the challenge is ensuring that governments comply with this requirement, particularly with respect to new technologies and in countries that lack the rule of law.

The modern privacy benchmark at an international level can be found in Article 12 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which specifically protects territorial and communications privacy. Numerous other international human rights treaties recognize privacy as a right: Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966, Article 14 of the United Nations Convention on Migrant Workers, and Article 16 of the UN Convention of the Protection of the Child. Regional conventions that recognize the right to privacy includes Article 10 of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, Article 11 of the American Convention on Human Rights, Article 4 of the African Union Principles on Freedom of Expression, Article 5 of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, Article 21 of the Arab Charter on Human Rights, and Article 8 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

Constitutions regulate the relationship between citizens and the State and thus form the bedrock of civil, political and human rights protections. Constitutional protections of privacy have enabled human autonomy and curtailed significant government initiatives to interfere with individual rights in many countries around the world.

We work closely with international institutions to protect the right to privacy as enshrined in international conventions. We also work with groups in various countries to draw attention to how their national governments’ surveillance measures may not comply with international human rights, or with the language of their constitutions. We aim to help governments and legal institutions understand how privacy and technological change should be reflected in their constitutional frameworks.

Human Rights and Constitutional Protections

Blog
Carly Nyst's picture

In the same week that the Advocate General of the European Court of Justice labelled the retention of electronic communications data throughout Europe as a “serious interference with the right to privacy”, the French National Assembly has codified into law a suite of invasive and unrestrained surveillance powers, allowing an expanded range of government bodies invasive access to citizens electronic communications data and content and threatening the privacy rights of the French people. 

In the media
Publisher: 
The Guardian
Publication date: 
02-Dec-2013
Original story link: 

The NSA's UK counterpart GCHQ faces even greater challenges under British and European human rights law. Advocacy group Privacy International has launched actions with the UK's investigatory powers tribunal and with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development against both GCHQ and seven telecoms companies working with it.

In the media
Publisher: 
The Inquirer
Publication date: 
02-Dec-2013
Author(s): 
Dave Neal
Original story link: 

Human rights group Privacy International has asked for a formal investigation into whether the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) offered to dump Australian citizens' personal comms data into the lap of the Five Eyes surveillance coalition.

Privacy International has reacted swiftly to a report in the Guardian newspaper that is based on Edward Snowden's whistleblowing revelations

Countries: 
Blog
Eric King's picture

The recent revelations, made possible by NSA-whistleblower Edward Snowden, of the reach and scope of global surveillance practices have prompted a fundamental re- examination of the role of intelligence services in conducting coordinated cross-border surveillance.

The Five Eyes alliance of States – comprised of the United States National Security Agency (NSA), the United Kingdom’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), Canada’s Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC), the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), and New Zealand’s Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) – is the continuation of an intelligence partnership formed in the aftermath of the Second World War. Today, the Five Eyes has infiltrated every aspect of modern global communications systems.

Press release

Privacy International today has filed a complaint with the Australian Inspector-General of Intelligence Security, calling for an immediate investigation into deeply troubling reports that the Australian intelligence services offered to violate the privacy rights of millions of citizens by handing over bulk metadata to its Five Eye partners.

Opinion piece
Eric King's picture

The following is an excerpt from a Comment originally publihsed by The Guardian, written by Privacy International's Head of Research, Eric King:

As the global public reels from yet another Snowden revelation – this time, that the US and UK intelligence forces have hacked into and planted spyware on more than 50,000 computer networks worldwide – the hypocrisy of the US and British governments is brought into sharp relief. Less than four years ago Hillary Clinton, chastising China, declared that "countries or individuals that engage in cyber attacks should face consequences and international condemnation. In an interconnected world, an attack on one nation's networks can be an attack on all." Given what we now know to be the "Five Eyes" complete stranglehold on the world's internet infrastructure, how can we possibly reconcile repeated American appeals to internet freedom and condemnation of Chinese internet monitoring with US-sponsored network hacking?

In the media
Publisher: 
Wired
Publication date: 
22-Nov-2013
Author(s): 
Carola Frediani
Original story link: 

“ L'approvazione della risoluzione non provocherà delle azioni concrete immediate, ma dal punto di vista normativo sarà una dichiarazione di principio forte, aiutando il fronte di chi combatte la sorveglianza globale. Inoltre permetterà di capire, anche a livello di singoli Stati, chi è disposto a sostenere gli Stati Uniti sulla strada del controllo di massa e chi invece si oppone”, commenta a Wired.it Carly Nyst di Privacy International. “Certo gli Usa e la Gran Bretagna hanno cercato di modificare il linguaggio, ma non sono riusciti veramente a cambiare il senso della risoluzione: ad esempio volevano far togliere i riferimenti alla sorveglianza “extraterritoriale”, che invece sono rimasti”.

Blog
Carly Nyst's picture

Privacy International is proud to announce our new project, Eyes Wide Open, which aims to pry open the Five Eyes arrangement and bring it under the rule of law. Read our Special Report "Eyes Wide Open" and learn more about the project below.

For almost 70 years, a secret post-war alliance of five English-speaking countries has been building a global surveillance infrastructure to “master the internet” and spy on the worlds communications. This arrangement binds together the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand to create what’s collectively known as the Five Eyes.

Blog
Carly Nyst's picture

With the launch of the "Eyes Wide Open" project, Privacy International has put together a fact sheet about the secretive Five Eyes alliance. Consider this a guide to the secret surveillance alliance that has infiltrated every aspect of the modern global communications system.

• Beginning in 1946, an alliance of five English-speaking countries (the US, the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand) developed a series of bilateral agreements over more than a decade that became known as the UKUSA agreement, establishing the Five Eyes alliance for the purpose of sharing intelligence, primarily signals intelligence (SIGINT).

• While almost 70 years old, the arrangement is so secretive that the Australian prime minister reportedly wasn’t informed of its existence until 1973 and no government officially acknowledged the arrangement by name until 1999.

In the media
Publisher: 
The Guardian
Publication date: 
22-Nov-2013
Author(s): 
Nick Hopkins and Matthew Taylor
Original story link: 

Privacy International said it had long suspected that members of Five Eyes have been playing "a game of jurisdictional arbitrage to sidestep domestic laws governing interception and collection of data".

"Secret agreements such as these must be placed under the microscope to ensure they are adequately protecting the rights of British citizens," said Eric King, the group's head of research.

"The British government has repeatedly insisted that appropriate warrants were in place in all instances of international intelligence collaboration. We now know this isn't the whole truth. Trust must be restored, and our intelligence agencies must be brought under the rule of law. Transparency around an accountability for these secret agreements is a crucial first step."

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