UN: Nations hide rise in private digital snooping

Jul 16, 2014 by John Heilprin

Governments on every continent are hiding an increasing reliance on private companies to snoop on citizens' digital lives, the U.N. human rights office said Wednesday.

Stepping into a fierce debate over digital privacy rights, the U.N. office says it has strong evidence of a growing complicity among private companies in government spying. It says governments around the world are using both legal and covert methods to access private content and metadata.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said the lack of transparency and tactics extends to governments' "de facto coercion" of companies to gain broad access to information and data on citizens without them knowing. Among the evidence the U.N. cited is its questionnaire to member nations, European court rulings and a European Digital Rights report on the "slide" from corporate self-regulation to self-censorship.

The report to the U.N. General Assembly says concerns about the erosion in privacy have increased since last year's revelations of U.S. and British mass surveillance. It said stricter laws are needed to prevent violations and ensure accountability when digital technology and surveillance is misused.

Mass surveillance is becoming "a dangerous habit rather than an exceptional measure," it said.

By law, Pillay said, governments must demonstrate the interference isn't arbitrary or illegal.

"Any capture of communications data is potentially an interference with privacy," she said.

The report comes as American technology companies' reputations suffer from the perception they can't protect customer data from U.S. spy agencies. The German government said last month it is ending a contract with Verizon over security concerns.

But U.S. officials say European and other foreign intelligence agencies also routinely demand cooperation from national telecommunications companies.

"All countries should immediately start to review their digital surveillance practices and bring them in line with international rights standards," Human Rights Watch researcher Cynthia Wong said.

Explore further: UK govt seeks data retention law after EU verdict (Update)

5 /5 (3 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

UN votes to protect privacy in digital age (Update)

Dec 18, 2013

The U.N. General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution aimed at protecting the right to privacy against unlawful surveillance in the digital age on Wednesday in the most vocal global criticism of U.S. eavesdropping.

Tech firms mark Snowden leaks with new campaign

Jun 05, 2014

Some of the largest technology firms and activists marked the anniversary of Edward Snowden's leaks on Thursday with new efforts to thwart online snooping and boost privacy.

UK surveillance programmes challenged at tribunal

Jul 14, 2014

Civil liberties campaigners began a legal challenge Monday against the alleged use of mass surveillance programmes by the British intelligence services, in what they said were historic public hearings sparked ...

Recommended for you

Protecting privacy also means preserving democracy

1 hour ago

What impact does the proliferation of new mobile technologies have? How does the sharing of personal data over the Internet threaten our society? Interview with Professor Jean-Pierre Hubaux, a specialist ...

US cyber-warriors battling Islamic State on Twitter

Aug 31, 2014

The United States has launched a social media offensive against the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda, setting out to win the war of ideas by ridiculing the militants with a mixture of blunt language and sarcasm.

What metadata does the government want about you?

Aug 28, 2014

With the leaking of a discussion paper on telecommunications data retention, we are at last starting to get some clarity as to just what metadata the Abbott government is likely to ask telecommunications ...

User comments : 0