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United Nations signs off on 'right to privacy in the digital age'

Calls upon world to respect privacy and 'context' of communications

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The United Nations (UN) has unanimously voted to adopt a resolution calling for online privacy to be recognised as a human right.

The gesture is politically notable because it shows the world is willing to be seen to do something in the wake of The Year Of Snowden.

The resolution extends the general human right of privacy to the online world and clearly takes aim at the USA for its recently-revealed activities in clause 4, which “Calls upon all States” to perform the following actions.

(a) To respect and protect the right to privacy, including in the context of digital communication;

(b) To take measures to put an end to violations of those rights and to create the conditions to prevent such violations, including by ensuring that relevant national legislation complies with their obligations under international human rights law;

(c)To review their procedures, practices and legislation regarding the surveillance of communications, their interception and collection of personal data, including mass surveillance, interception and collection, with a view to upholding the right to privacy by ensuring the full and effective implementation of all their obligations under international human rights law;

(d) To establish or maintain existing independent, effective domestic oversight mechanisms capable of ensuring transparency, as appropriate, and accountability for State surveillance of communications, their interception and collection of personal data;

Sadly, UN resolutions of this sort aren't binding and can be flouted without consequence.

On the upside, the UN has explicitly recognised “that the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, including the right to privacy” and noted that “the global and open nature of the Internet and the rapid advancement in information and communication technologies as a driving force in accelerating progress towards development in its various forms”.

Those aren't unhelpful things for humanity's closest thing to a collective representative body to have uttered. ®

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