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UN issues call for international privacy agreement

Countering counter-terror powers

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A UN watchdog has called for a new international agreement on privacy following a review of the expanding global array of surveillance measures and databases advanced by governments in the cause of counter-terrorism.

The special rapporteur on human rights, Martin Scheinin, said the UN should create a "a global declaration on data protection and data privacy" in response.

His report, delivered to the UN's Human Rights Council, describes the expansion of watchlists, border checks, financial data sharing, interception of communications, biometrics and ID registers in recent years.

"States no longer limit exceptional surveillance schemes to combating terrorism and instead make these surveillance powers available for all purposes," he added.

"Most worrying, however, is that these technologies and policies are being exported to other countries and often lose even the most basic protections in the process."

He singled out UK police's stop and search powers as a worrying example, questioning whether they are "really necessary in a democratic society". The European Court of Human Rights - which is not an EU institution - earlier this month ruled that section 44 of the Terrorism Act, which allows police to stop and search without grounds for suspicion, was illegal. Alan Johnson said the government would appeal.

Scheinin noted that parliaments had generally been given little opportunity to debate such counter-terrorism powers.

The full report is here. ®

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