On 1st Anniversary of Snowden Revelations, World Governments Urged to End Mass Surveillance

MEPs protesting in March 2014 following the rejection of an amendment calling for Snowden to be granted protection by EU member states - Photo by greensefa on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

MEPs protesting in March 2014 following the rejection of an amendment calling for Snowden to be granted protection by EU member states – Photo by greensefa on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

 A huge international gathering of experts have called on world governments to adopt the 13 International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance (IPAHRCS) — principles aimed at putting an end to the blanket surveillance of law-abiding persons. The call comes a year to the day after whistleblower Edward Snowden first revealed details about how government spy agencies, including the United States’ National Security Agency (NSA), are monitoring law-abiding citizens on a massive and unprecedented scale. In the 12 months since the revelations, most world governments have ignored growing calls from citizens to put an end to these activities.
The group of over 450 organizations and experts, supported by over 350,000 individuals from across the globe, have been calling for the adoption of new rules to protect innocent citizens from government spying. The 13 International Principles establish clear guidelines to ensure government surveillance activities are consistent with human rights. These principles were developed over months of consultation with technology, privacy, and human rights experts from around the world. The principles emphasize the human rights obligations of governments engaged in communications surveillance.
Group members are also recommending greater use of software libre, decentralized architectures, and end-to-end encryption to help safeguard citizens’ privacy rights. They say citizens deserve strong data protection safeguards to safeguard their privacy from government monitoring.
Here’s what International experts are saying about the Necessary and Proportionate Principles, and the need to end mass surveillance:
Latin America
Luis Fernando García, R3D (Mexico):
“The 13 Principles are defenders of an Internet that constitutes a space for the exercise of human rights. By promoting its recognition, we reject the false choice between security and privacy and, at the same time, we defend the democratic aspirations of our societies.”
Paulo Rená da Silva Santarém (Brasil):
“Edward Snowden's revelations were crucial in ensuring that civil society had enough evidence to pressure our government for the approval of Marco Civil. Certainly, now is time for the Brazilian Government to take the lead by implementing the 13 Principles into domestic law, specifically against mass data retention.”
Pilar Saenz, RedPaTodos (Colombia):
“We insist that surveillance must be ‘necessary and proportionate’ and with independent oversight to prevent abuse of power.” 
Joana Varon, Center for Technology and Society (Brazil):
“Snowden has provided us with the most powerful tool of our current era: information. Every single Internet user around the world should feel empowered by that and, as such, push for a change in current surveillance practices. Mass surveillance has nothing to do with security, it represents a serious threat to fundamental human rights. Any surveillance practice should be limited to what is necessary and  proportionate, and that's why the 13 principles should be the starting  point.”
Ramiro Álvarez Ugarte, Asociación por los Derechos Civiles (Argentina):
“A year ago, we confirmed what many suspected. Now we know that basic  human rights are being violated due to a wide system of mass surveillance which simply is incompatible with a free and democratic   society. While Snowden has shed light onto these practices, in Latin America we remain in the dark. Unchecked and autonomous intelligence agencies engage in political surveillance all the time, as recent scandals in   Colombia and Argentina have clearly shown. Massive or not, this kind   of surveillance puts a check on democratic participation and  region-wide  reform efforts are as urgent as necessary.” 
Valeria Betancourt, Association for Progressive Communications (Ecuador – International):
“It is necessary to reinforce the call to states to take measures that will put an end to privacy violations and ensure that  legislation and practices related to communications surveillance, collection of  personal data, and interception of communications, adhere to international human rights. A robust protection for human rights is  a  condition for democracy.”
Jacobo Nájera, free software developer [Latin America]:
“Snowden highlights the capabilities of the most powerful system of mass surveillance; and has reaffirmed that mass surveillance and the centralization of development processes and services on the Internet destroy the Net as we know it. There is a need to use and develop free software, end-to-end encryption, and decentralized services.”
Ivan Martínez, President, Wikimedia Mexico (Mexico):
“Freedom on the internet is an essential component of the Wikimedia projects, and a value that governs their overall performance. Its defense in the  social context is a necessary task in many societies because of the temptations of certain political figures to place barriers on its development. As Wikipedians and promoters of free knowledge, in previous  years we didn't consider it right to passively observe possible  attempts to monitor peoples’ actions on the net, and we always support efforts to guarantee a free internet without any kind of surveillance.”
Claudio Ruiz, ONG Derechos Digitales (Latin America):
“Snowden's revelations illustrate the significance of human rights on the Internet. In the post-Snowden era, states are not the only enemies to our civil liberties, private companies are as well. The fragility of  our  rights in the light of technological developments is to require all  actors unrestricted commitment to protecting the privacy of all.”
Katitza Rodriguez, International Rights Director, EFF (Peru-International):
“As our everyday interactions, activities, and communications now emit a  continuous stream of revealing information, the question has become: how do we preserve fundamental freedoms in the digital age?” EFF  International Rights Director Katitza Rodriguez said. “The 13 Principles explain how and why we must rein in unchecked surveillance state at  home and abroad and protect the freedoms of everyone, regardless of  citizenship or statelessness.”
North America
Steve Anderson, OpenMedia Executive Director (Canada – International): 
“These  13 Principles represent the positive alternative to secretive and  unaccountable mass surveillance. We all need to work together to rein in out-of-control government surveillance by making sure it is necessary,  proportionate, and respects our fundamental human rights. Everyone deserves to keep their private life private and it’s past time  decision-makers listened to citizens and implemented these common sense  international principles.”
Jochai Ben-Avie, Policy Director, Access (United States – International):
“The   human rights that are negatively impacted by surveillance are some of   the most treasured and the most easily invaded. The 13 Principles provide a  framing against which government surveillance practices   around the world can be measured and they are already affecting change   around the world. The Principles are a rallying cry for human rights   defenders,  and  the chorus of users who have already spoken out demonstrate that  no  longer will the public acquiesce quietly to mass   surveillance. As  we  mark the one year anniversary of the first  Snowden  revelation and reflect on what we know now, we can see that  the  Principles have fundamentally changed the discourse and are one of  the  most powerful tools in the fight to limit how States spy on the  users of  the world.” 
Cindy Cohn, Legal Director, EFF (United States):
“Human  rights law already strongly protects the privacy and free expression of  people around the world, but the dramatically increased ability and  willingness of the NSA, along with its counterparts, to engage in mass surveillance and to undermine online security required specific thinking  about how to apply and preserve this important law in this radically  new context. The 13 Principles accomplish this goal, providing a  guidestar for nongovernmental organizations and governments around the  world who want to ensure the ongoing protection of our fundamental  freedoms in the digital age. They also serve as an important complement  to the work that EFF and others are doing domestically in the US to try  to rein in the NSA.”  
Tamir Israel, Staff Lawyer, Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy & Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC)(Canada):
The  long string of Snowden revelations have confirmed for us that the worst case scenario is true: state agencies have transformed our digital  networks into a means of mass surveillance. If permitted to stand, this state of affairs threatens the very foundations of democracy by subverting our most powerful vehicle for those wisthing to challenge prevailing opinion. It is incumbent on us to fix this problem, and the solution requires dynamic political, technical and legal solutions. The Necessary & Proportionate Principles address the last of these by reasserting privacy and other human rights in a way that is meaningful in this new technological era. They are designed to bring us back to a world where surveillance occurs only when it is needed and justifiable and to put an end to the current ‘collect everything’ reality that has crept up on us in recent years.
Christopher Parsons, Postdoctoral Fellow, Citizen Lab, Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto (Canada):
“The  past year has revealed that dragnet state surveillance has enveloped   the world despite our nations’ privacy and data protection laws, laws that have demonstrably been diminished, undermined, and evaded by   privacy-hostile governments over the course of the past decade. It is critical that we take the initiative and work to better endow our   privacy commissioners and data protection regulators with the powers   they need to investigate and terminate programs that inappropriately or   unlawfully invade and undermine our individual and collective  rights    to  privacy”.
Yana Welinder, Legal Counsel, Wikimedia Foundation (United States): 
“Untargeted surveillance means that people cannot anonymously share their wisdom online or freely read without the fear of constantly being watched. It’s a threat to the very core of what makes us human – the drive to think and formulate ideas. The 13 Principles push back on that threat. They demand that governments avoid excessive surveillance and respect human rights.”
Yochai Benkler, Professor, Harvard Law School and Berkman Center for Internet and Society (United States):
“Because  mass surveillance is technically difficult, legally suspect, and social  taboo in democratic societies, the national security establishment has  had to break or warp all other major systems in society to achieve it.  What we learned from Snowden is that the ambition of the national  security establishment has subverted open technical systems and the  professional norms-based processes that undergird our technical  infrastructure; undermined markets and commercial innovation; and  produced a theatre of the grotesque where public accountability and  judicial, executive, and legislative control should have been.”  
Eben Moglen, President and Executive Director of the Software Freedom Law Center (International):
“If—by   technical, legal and political means—we prevent centralized control   and surveillance of the Net, we save liberty. If not, unshakeable despotism lies in the human future”.
Cynthia Wong, Human Rights Watch (United States – International):
“The  Internet has become central to our lives.  But the NSA and GCHQ’s  ‘collect it all’ attitude makes it incredibly hard for human rights  defenders, journalists, and ordinary citizens worldwide to go online  without fear.  To accept these agencies’ arguments for mass surveillance  without challenge means the beginning of the end of privacy in the  digital age.”  
Arthur Gwagwa, Zimbabwe Human Rights Forum (Zimbawe):
“As  the evolution of digital technologies outpaces international and regional regulatory consensus, the 13 Principles collect what little there is in the form of guidance, and   proactively go beyond that by providing a sturdy, timeless, and universal   framework within which national, regional, and international reforms on the presenting issues can sit and find strength.”
Hisham Almiraat, Global Voices Advocacy (Morocco, International):
“The advent of the internet marked a major  milestone for human rights activists in some of the most repressive places on earth. It  symbolized an unprecedented extension of the public sphere and a  serious blow to governments’ attempts to curtail freedom of speech.  Mass,  indiscriminate   surveillance is threatening to destroy this progress.  The 13 Principles offer a workable solution to balance security and  privacy. We call upon all governments to adopt these  principles in  order to protect their  citizens’ right to privacy and  freedom of  speech.”
Simon Davies, Publisher, “The Privacy Surgeon” (United Kingdom – International):
“The  majority of the world's governments have responded with either  orchestrated deception or brazen indifference to the Snowden  revelations. A year on, the secret arrangements that enabled the  creation of a vast global spying regime continue almost unchanged.  Initiatives such as the 13 Principles – and the huge coalition that  supports them – can make a real difference to an arrogant and  unaccountable spy empire that imperils the privacy of everyone.”
Stuart  Hamilton, Director of Policy and Advocacy, International Federation of  Library Associations and Institutions (International):
“For  librarians, safeguarding the privacy of our users is a crucial  professional principle. When people are under surveillance, they lose  their ability to think freely—nobody likes to read with someone  looking over their shoulder.  The 13 Principles show us the way to  ensure existing human rights law applies to modern digital surveillance.  IFLA is proud to be a signatory.”
Christian Horchert, CCC (Germany):
“Snowden helped us to understand on what fragile foundation our information society is build upon. We are at a turning point where we need to decide  how to move forward: Do we really want to live in a world of insecurity and mistrust or not?”
Joe McNamee, European Digital Rights, Executive Director (European Union):
“We  have slipped unconsciously into a world where basic concepts of  democracy and the rule of law have been replaced by sophistry and  impunity. The 13 Principles draw a clear baseline on which democratic  principles, privacy and freedom of communication can be rebuilt. 
Carly Nyst, Legal Director, Privacy International (United Kingdom – International):
“The 13 Principles have completely changed the debate around communications surveillance. By providing a detailed, clear interpretation of human rights standards that is relevant and meaningful in the digital age, the 13 Principles have done what so many national legislatures have failed to do—update long-standing legal protections of the right to privacy in the light of new technologies that challenge traditional distinctions such as content vs metadata, nationals vs non-nationals, intelligence vs. law enforcement. The 13 Principles are the most important tool that civil society has to mould the crucial debate being had, in the aftermath of the Snowden revelations, about the limits of state power to spy on citizens around the world.”
Danny O'Brien, International Director, Electronic Frontier Foundation, (United Kingdom – International):
“The application of international law has lagged for years behind the technological advances which have led to our current global surveillance state. The 13 Principles spells out exactly how we can update our understanding of human rights to combat this erosion of civil liberties. As courts around the world begin to tackle these issues seriously, it's invaluable for them to have such timely and precise guidance.”
John Ralston Saul, President, PEN International (International):
“The principles of expression are simple—maximum transparency in places of power, maximum free expression for citizens. Privacy is a key part of free expression. In private we work out what we will say and do in public. The growing use of secrecy and surveillance by governments and corporations is a direct attack on free expression. The use of fear to justify this secrecy and surveillance is a cynical diversion from the central issue. Free expression.”
Katarzyna Szymielewicz, President, Panoptykon Foundation (Poland):
“In  the aftermath of Snowden's disclosures, civil society organisations have  to speak with one voice to remind governments across the world what  principles should apply when it comes to surveillance. The 13 Principles  make it very clear that there is no way of reconciling mass, preemptive  surveillance with the right to privacy and human rights safeguards such  as presumption of innocence. The manifesto with 13 principles is our  way of communicating these core values to decision makers and the media.  However, we expect much more than public debate: we demand their  implementation.” 
Friedhelm Weinberg, HURIDOCS (Germany):
“There  has been an incredible gap between the practices of mass surveillance  and the protections everyone ought to enjoy under international human rights law. The 13 Principles have been the one crucial document  that has fueled the process of addressing this gap, and closing it.   Unlawful  mass surveillance still occurs, but the 13 Principles are  now so widely  recognised that there will be no more excuses for  everyone—government,  businesses or others—not to do more to protect the  rights of  individuals  around the globe.”
Jérémie Zimmermann, La Quadrature du Net (France):
“Our humanities are now indivisible from the Machine, we became the Cyborg.  And now we see that the machine as a whole has been subverted to work  against us, to spy on us and control us. We must fight back for our  humanities against this oppressive Machine, with software libre,  decentralized architectures, and end-to-end encryption.”
Professor Kyung Sin Park, Open Net (South Korea):
“The 13 Principles are the first attempt to create an international legal standard on the right to be free from surveillance, that is, surveillance by any government on any private person on earth via any communications medium.” 
Sana Saleem, Bolo Bhi (Pakistan):
The Snowden revelations were instrumental in exposing the corporate-government nexus that enables surveillance. The Necessary & Proportionate Principles are a much-needed step towards limiting states’ power to infringe on our right to privacy.” 
Joy Liddicoat, Association for Progressive Communications (New Zealand – International):
“The  revelations of whistleblowers, includiing Edward Snowden, have shone a  bright light into the dark interior workings of modern democracies,  revealing the deeply uncomfortable truth that our human rights are at  grave risk at home from those elected to represent democractic values,   including human rights to privacy. We do not want our governments to  protect us—we want them to protect our rights, but when they will not, civil society voices and leadership must respond emphatically. The 13 Principles provide a clear set of guidance for the application and  upholding of human rights in a digital age in relation to  surveillance.”  

This post was co-drafted by a coalition of international partners including groups supporting the Necessary & Proportionate Principles.

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