After months of international outcry over the internet surveillance programs carried out by the NSA and other Western governments, President Obama called a press conference on Friday, August 9th. He explained that moving forward, the U.S. would address criticisms of the NSA’s programs through debate “guided by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, with reverence for our history as a nation that honors its agreements, and with respect for the facts.” Or at least, that’s what he could have said to solidify the role of the United States as a defender of Internet freedom and begin to turn back from a world without privacy.
Instead, President Obama called for a debate “guided by our Constitution, with reverence for our history as a nation of laws, and with respect for the facts.” One fact the limited, weak reforms he proposed ignored; privacy is a human right. Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a binding treaty the U.S. Senate ratified in 1992, states that “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy…Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.” The NSA’s internet monitoring programs, which may monitor as much as half of all online communications, clearly constitute an arbitrary interference with the privacy of billions worldwide.
The United States is just one of many countries “failing to ensure that laws and regulations related to communications surveillance adhere to international human rights and adequately protect the rights to privacy and freedom of expression.” That’s why WITNESS has joined 150+ organizations from 40+ countries in supporting 13 principles that “explain how international human rights law applies in the current digital environment.”
Learn more about the principles at necessaryandproportionate.org: