UN report "The Right to Privacy in the Digital Age"; asserts tech companies can be complicit in abuses

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29 July 2014

"The right to privacy in the digital age"

Author: Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

In its resolution 68/167, the General Assembly requested the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to submit a report on the protection and promotion of the  right to privacy in the context of domestic and extraterritorial surveillance and/or the interception of digital communications and the collection of personal data, including on a mass scale, to the Human Rights Council at its twenty-seventh session and to the General Assembly at its sixty-ninth session, with views and recommendations, to be considered by Member States. The present report is submitted pursuant to that request…Deep concerns have been expressed as policies and practices that exploit the vulnerability of digital communications technologies to electronic surveillance and interception in countries across the globe have been exposed…

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22 July 2014

"Major New United Nations Report Rebukes Five Eyes’ Attempts to Weaken Digital Privacy Rights"

Author: Jonathan Horowitz (Open Society Justice Initiative) and Sarah Knuckey (Columbia Law School)

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released a significant report last week analyzing the meaning of the human right to privacy in relation to electronic surveillance…The report…expresses strong conclusions about a number of…fiercely debated surveillance issues…The interception or collection of metadata may interfere with the right to privacy…The “possession” of data is sufficient for an interference…Companies may be complicit in human rights abuses…the OHCHR devotes an entire section of the report to the business-related human rights issues raised by surveillance.  Citing to the widely accepted Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the report notes that companies must respect human rights through their “global operations regardless of where its users are located,” … OHCHR offers some general guidance for companies, including that they should provide users “meaningful transparency about how their data are being gathered, stored, used and potentially shared”…

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17 July 2014

United Nations: Rein in Mass Surveillance - Groundbreaking Privacy Report Affirms Rights Requirements

Author: Human Rights Watch

Governments around the world should heed the findings of the UN’s human rights commissioner on mass surveillance, Human Rights Watch said today. Governments should rein in mass surveillance and respect the privacy of all Internet users, no matter where they are located...The report made several crucial points...[including: Responsibilities of technology companies: The report stated that in any case, if technology companies comply with government requests for surveillance assistance without adequate safeguards, they risk complicity in any resulting human rights abuses. The report calls on companies to “assess whether and how their terms of service, or their policies for gathering and sharing customer data, may result in an adverse impact on the human rights of their users,” implicitly drawing a connection between company data collection practices and government access to data companies hold.

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