An email I sent to the Irish Council for Civil Liberties. Quite succint and un-emotive, but that’s the way of The Law, I suppose. There’s something kind of cute and utopian about these ‘International Principles’ and ‘International Charters’, but that’s just cynical ol’ me talking…. Hummmm.
To Whom It May Concern,
As a recipient of the bi-weekly EDRi-gram (Electronic Digital Rights newsletter), I try to keep abreast of developments in the field of digital civil rights, and I recently learned of the 13 Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance. The 13 principles were officially presented in Geneva on the 20th of September, spurred on by revelations (still emerging) about the breadth and depth of mass internet surveillance being carried out by intelligence agencies, often in the name of security or anti-piracy.
Speaking at the launch event, Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said that, ‘technological advancements have been powerful tools for democracy by giving access to all to participate in society, but increasing use of data mining by intelligence agencies blurs lines between legitimate surveillance and arbitrary mass surveillance.’
In the words of Frank La Rue, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Opinion, ‘the right to privacy is often understood as an essential requirement for the realization of the right to freedom of expression. Undue interference with individuals’ privacy can both directly and indirectly limit the free development and exchange of ideas. An infringement upon one right can be both the cause and consequence of an infringement upon the other.’
I notice, however, from the 13 Principles website that the ICCL is not a signatory, and that in fact there is no Irish signatory to this document. In the ICCL’s capacity as both a watchdog for civil liberties, and an educator on these issues, I feel it of the utmost importance that your organisation raise awareness of this issue, and join this international coalition of signatories in calling for an assessment of surveillance practices in a human rights context.
Niamh de Barra