Frank La Rue, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Opinion, has tabled a report (PDF) to the UN Human Rights Council that makes a connection between surveillance and free expression. This is a first in the UN, and the meat of it is that it establishes the principle that countries that engage in bulk, warrantless Internet surveillance are violating their human rights obligations to ensure freedom of expression:
La Rue reminds States that in order to meet their human rights obligations, they must ensure that the rights to free expression and privacy—and metadata protection in particular—are at the heart of their communications surveillance frameworks. To this end, the Special Rapporteur urges states to review national laws regulating surveillance and update and strengthen laws and legal standards:
Communications surveillance should be regarded as a highly intrusive act that potentially interferes with the rights to freedom of expression and privacy and threatens the foundations of a democratic society.
Legislation must stipulate that State surveillance of communications must only occur under the most exceptional circumstances and exclusively under the supervision of an independent judicial authority.
At present, access to communications data has been conducted by a variety of public bodies for a broad range of purposes, often without judicial authorization and independent oversight. Such overbroad access threatens basic democratic values.
Internet Surveillance and Free Speech: the United Nations Makes the Connection
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