UN expert calls for moratorium on the sale, transfer & use of surveillance tools; cites lack of human rights-compliant regulatory frameworks
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, called for an immediate moratorium on the sale, transfer and use of surveillance technology until human rights-compliant regulatory frameworks are in place. In a report to the Human Rights Council on the surveillance industry and its interference with human rights, Kaye cites examples of computer intrusions, mobile device hacking, network intrusion, and facial recognition surveillance as potential harms to the right of freedom of opinion and expression. He calls on both governments and companies to recognise their responsibilities, “and impose rigorous requirements on this industry, with the goal of protecting human rights for all.”
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Author: Tom Miles, Reuters
U.N. member states are set to sidestep a call for a moratorium on commercial spyware, deciding instead to commission a study of how digital technology affects human rights, according to a draft U.N. human rights resolution seen by Reuters. If adopted by the U.N. Human Rights Council at the end of next week, the resolution would set up a panel discussion at the Council’s session in June 2020, with a wide-ranging report completed a year later... His report last month said he had detailed testimony about governments using spyware developed and supported by private companies, and that surveillance of journalists and dissidents had been linked to arbitrary detention, torture and possibly extrajudicial killings. The draft resolution made no mention of Kaye’s report, but said the “impacts, opportunities and challenges of rapid technological change... are not fully understood”, and called for further study.
Report by UN Special Rapporteur highlights abuses of surveillance technology & urges companies to ensure products or services are compliant with human rights standards
Author: David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion & protection of the right to freedom of opinion & expression
"Surveillance and human rights: Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression," 25 Jun 2019
The General Assembly has condemned unlawful or arbitrary surveillance and interception of communications as “highly intrusive acts” that interfere with fundamental human rights... However, unlawful surveillance continues without evident constraint... Surveillance of specific individuals – often journalists, activists, opposition figures, critics and others exercising their right to freedom of expression – has been shown to lead to arbitrary detention, sometimes to torture and possibly to extrajudicial killings... The Special Rapporteur concludes the present report with a call...for an immediate moratorium on the global sale and transfer of the tools of the private surveillance industry until rigorous human rights safeguards are put in place to regulate such practices and guarantee that Governments and non-State actors use the tools in legitimate ways.... The human rights law framework is in place, but a framework to enforce limitations is not. It is imperative, urgently so, that States limit the uses of such technologies to lawful ones only... Companies should also put in place robust safeguards to ensure that any use of their products or services is compliant with human rights standards... [Both] should establish co-regulatory initiatives that develop rights-based standards of conduct for the private surveillance industry and implement these standards through independent audits, and learning and policy initiatives.
Author: Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye... called for an immediate moratorium on the sale, transfer and use of surveillance technology until human rights-compliant regulatory frameworks are in place... “Surveillance tools can interfere with human rights, from the right to privacy and freedom of expression to rights of association and assembly, religious belief, non-discrimination, and public participation. And yet they are not subject to any effective global or national control,” the Special Rapporteur said. Kaye gave examples of computer intrusions, mobile device hacking, network intrusion, facial recognition surveillance and other highly sophisticated surveillance tools that have been used by States and other actors to monitor journalists, politicians, UN investigators and human rights advocates.
The report urges States to adopt domestic safeguards in accordance with international human rights law to protect individuals from unlawful surveillance. “States are not alone in their responsibilities,” the Special Rapporteur added. “Companies appear to be operating without constraint. It is critical that companies themselves adhere to their human rights responsibilities... Given the current lack of an effective regulatory framework on the use of surveillance technologies to mitigate and remedy the harms they can cause, Kaye added, “it is imperative that States limit the uses of such technologies to lawful ones only, subjected to the strictest sorts of oversight and authorisation, and that States condition export of such technologies on the strictest human rights due diligence”.