The world needs a cyber privacy treaty

Digital Rights Watch has welcomed the release of a UN report calling for a global treaty to protect internet user’s right to privacy.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy, Joseph Cannataci, yesterday presented his report to the Human Rights Council, denouncing current surveillance legislation and calling for States to respect privacy as a universal right in the digital age.

“It is extremely welcoming to see such a thorough and comprehensive report on the state of privacy online,” said Chair of Digital Rights Watch Tim Singleton Norton.

“Australia’s own mandatory data retention scheme is a prime example of the overreach of Governments that is fast becoming a global trend. The extensive, intrusive nature of these regimes, in combination with a lack of transparency over which bodies are able to access it and for what purposes, risks creating a chilling effect on freedom of expression in Australia.”

“Mr Cannataci could not have been more damning in his condemnation of nation states’ attitudes towards digital privacy. This should not be taken lightly, and we urge Governments, including Australia, to take heed of his warnings.”

“It is also important to note the role of whistleblowers and activists in shining a light on the nefarious workings of state surveillance operations. As mentioned in Cannataci’s report, where it not for the revelations of Edward Snowden, the current public debate would not even exist,” said Mr Singleton Norton.

Mr Cannataci says in his report: “The only way that these safeguards and remedies can be introduced in a way where their enforcement becomes more timely, more even-handed and expedient is through multilateral agreement enshrined in international law.”

“We couldn’t agree more with this recommendation, especially as so many developed nations continue to set a terrible example of operating widespread warrantless mass surveillance of its citizens.”

“What this report clearly shows is that the world needs to come together and agree on what is appropriate State behaviour in cyberspace, and start the process towards a global treaty to protect individual privacy online,” he concluded.


Read the UN report here.