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Issue

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
Alexandrine Pirlot's picture

As anticipated, the Snowden revelations – first referred to in the opening session as the “elephant in the room” – soon became the central focus of many of the 150 workshops that took place during the 8th Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Bali, and dominated the bilateral meetings that took place between governments, the private sector, the tech community, and civil society.

The various stakeholders arrived at the IGF ready to pursue their own agendas. The U.S. came to try and restore its image as a concerned protector of human rights of Internet users; China, to seize the opportunity to portray itself as a support of citizen’s rights in face of mass foreign surveillance programmes of Western democracies; and Brazil used the IGF to reaffirm its leadership for a multi-stakeholder approach which would respect human rights and challenge unethical illegal mass surveillance.

Blog
Dr Gus Hosein's picture

Just search for the term "surveillance state" and you’ll pull up various uses of the term or news articles citing the phrase.

In some respects, this newfound concern can’t be a surprise; given vast new amounts of information in the public sphere since the Edward Snowden leaks began in June. However, it is critical to nail down the exact meaning of the term, so as the public and governments have the debate over State spying, we can actually know what we're talking about. Most importantly, this will help us push back against it.

In the media
Publisher: 
Bloomberg BNA
Publication date: 
21-Oct-2013
Author(s): 
Stephen Gardner
Original story link: 

Gus Hosein, executive director of London-based Privacy International, an advocacy group campaigning for privacy rights, told Bloomberg BNA Oct. 18 that the court had “narrowly interpreted” EU law, and there was potential for challenges against the taking of fingerprints for inclusion in passports to be brought before the European Court of Human Rights. The court ruling was the “perpetuation of a stupid mistake” made by the European Parliament when it approved the collection of fingerprints for passports, Hosein said.

Blog
Carly Nyst's picture

At the first major discussions on internet governance since the Snowden leaks began in June 2013, Sweden’s Foreign Minister has called for the establishment of principles to define the application of existing human rights obligations to the digital realm.

Noting that the Snowden revelations have given birth to “a new debate about surveillance and privacy”, Foreign Minister Carl Bildt acknowledged that internet governance is being challenged, as some States operate vast surveillance systems without any laws of oversight whatsoever, and others are preparing for offensive operations on the net. He called for a global dialogue on the global norms of behavior on the net, and proposed seven principles that should be observed by States with regard to online surveillance.

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

Eric King, head of research at Privacy International, said there were real fears in the legal profession about confidentiality being breached by the security services following the NSA revelations. "We are astonishingly concerned about privileged communications being swept up as part of the mass surveillance programmes we have learned about over the past few months," he said.

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

Human rights group Privacy International told the Guardian that it makes Skype's previous claims look suspect. "The only people who lose are users," said Eric King, head of research at Privacy International. "Skype promoted itself as a fantastic tool for secure communications around the world, but quickly caved to government pressure and can no longer be trusted to protect user privacy."

In the media
Publisher: 
The Guardian
Publication date: 
11-Oct-2013
Author(s): 
Ryan Gallagher
Original story link: 

"The only people who lose are users," says Eric King, head of research at human rights group Privacy International. "Skype promoted itself as a fantastic tool for secure communications around the world, but quickly caved to government pressure and can no longer be trusted to protect user privacy."

In the media
Publisher: 
The Guardian
Publication date: 
10-Oct-2013
Author(s): 
Nick Hopkins
Original story link: 

Eric King, head of research at Privacy International: "Our intelligence agencies carry out some of the most sensitive and legally complex work in the world. It is shameful that the agreements between the NSA and GCHQ are shrouded in secrecy and this practice must come to an end."

Blog
Carly Nyst's picture

The Zimbabwean government extended its reach into the private lives of its citizens this week by promulgating a new law establishing a central database of information about all mobile telephone users in the country. The Statutory Instrument 142 of 2013 on Postal and Telecommunications (Subscriber Registration) Regulations 2013, gazetted last Friday, raises new challenges to the already embattled rights to privacy and free expression in Zimbabwe, increasing the potential that the repressive state will spy on its citizens and further clamp down on free speech.

The approval of the Statutory Instrument clearly shows a disregard for the rights to privacy and free expression protected by the new Zimbabwean constitution. Mandatory SIM card registration eradicates the potential for anonymity of communications, enables location-tracking, and simplifies communications surveillance and interception.

In the media
Publisher: 
Social Net Link
Publication date: 
23-Sep-2013
Original story link: 

Les représentants de JONCTION, Privacy International, Electronic Frontier Fondation, Access, Human Rights Watch, Reporters sans frontières, l'Association pour le progrès des communications, et le Center for Democracy and Technology ont tous participé à l'événement.

Countries: 

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