Rights groups urge world leaders to regulate surveillance technologies

[JURIST] Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] announced on Tuesday the creation [AI report] of a new global coalition that will work with world leaders to keep invasive surveillance systems and technologies out of the hands of dictators and oppressive regimes. The new organization is titled Coalition Against Unlawful Surveillance Exports (CAUSE) [advocacy website] and includes eight global human rights groups. CAUSE is looking for leaders to practice what they call a "core rule" [AI Q&A], which states that transfers of surveillance technologies should not be allowed to proceed unless an analysis can show there is not a risk that a recipient state would use them to interfere with one's right to privacy or violate other human rights. AI's Advocacy Coordinator on Arms Control, Security Trade and Human Rights at Amnesty Ara Marcen Naval has stated in regards to the transfer of these technologies that, "[t]hese technologies enable regimes to crush dissent or criticism, chill free speech and destroy fundamental rights. The CAUSE coalition has documented cases where communication surveillance technologies have been used, not only to spy on people's private lives, but also to assist governments to imprison and torture their critics."

The focus on protection against surveillance comes largely as a result of revelations [JURIST backgrounder] by former US National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden, who allegedly leaked classified documents last year exposing the scope and breadth of NSA surveillance activities. One of the first challenges to NSA activities came in June, when the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit [JURIST report] in federal court just days after Snowden claimed responsibility for the leaks. As the outcry over the revelations began to expand in scope and severity, several other human rights groups decided to sue as well. The following month both the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Electronic Privacy Information Center filed suit alleging [JURIST reports] similar claims, on the behalf of a coalition of 19 separate organizations. In August the UN announced [JURIST report] that it would be inquiring into US surveillance activities, specifically reports indicating the NSA had hacked internal UN communications. EU officials expressed concern [JURIST report] in October that NSA surveillance could have a counterintuitive impact on the fight against terrorism, due to the increased distrust of the US in light of the revelations. On November 1, Brazil and Germany proposed [JURIST report] their draft resolution on the issue to the General Assembly, which does not specifically target any nation but rather seeks to increase protections against any unreasonable surveillance, regardless of the nationality of the perpetrators or the targets.

 

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