Digital Mass Surveillance Must be Independently Checked: UNHRC

Published: 16th July 2014 11:04 PM  |   Last Updated: 16th July 2014 11:04 PM   |  A+A-


GENEVA: United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay Wednesday warned the dangerous practice of digital mass surveillance must be subject to independent checks and balances.

A "disturbing lack of transparency" has been witnessed in governmental surveillance policies and practices, including private sector companies, to provide sweeping access to information and data relating to private individuals without the latter's knowledge or consent, Xinhua reported citing a report released by Pillay's office as saying.

The report, entitled "The Right to Privacy in the Digital Age", warned that governmental mass surveillance is "emerging as a dangerous habit rather than an exceptional measure".

Practices in many states reveal "a lack of adequate national legislation or enforcement", weak procedural safeguards, and ineffective oversight, the report stated.

The UN human rights chief stressed that the very existence of a mass surveillance program creates an interference with privacy.

"The onus is on the state to demonstrate that such interference is neither arbitrary nor unlawful," Pillay said.

The report also called for countries to establish independent institutions to monitor such surveillance.

"In several countries, judicial warranting or review of the digital surveillance activities of intelligence or law enforcement agencies have amounted effectively to an exercise in rubber-stamping," it added.

On the role of the private sector, the report noted strong evidence of a growing reliance by governments on the private sector to conduct and facilitate digital surveillance.

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