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New version of UN anti-surveillance resolution warns against “highly intrusive” metadata collection

Fri 7 Nov 2014

Germany and Brazil have drafted a new text of the UN’s anti-surveillance resolution adopted last year to include details on the collection of metadata.

In the new version of the resolution, the two countries describe arbitrary spying, interception of communications, and collection of personal data and metadata, as “highly intrusive acts.”

The countries refer to metadata as tracking who is contacting who, when and where, as well as which webpages people are visiting, rather than the specific content of those communications. This allows surveillance bodies to create a clear footprint of an individual’s activities and networks.

The amended text, which has been brought to the attention of the 193 UN members, says such surveillance activities “violate the right to privacy and can interfere with the freedom of expression and may contradict the tenets of a democratic society, especially when undertaken on a mass scale.”

It urges the UN Human Rights Council to have an appropriate action plan should an individual’s right to privacy be violated by these acts.

“As the universal guardian of human rights, the United Nations must play a key role in defending the right to privacy, as well as freedom of opinion and expression in our digital world,” said German UN Ambassador, Harald Braun, adding that the new version of the resolution would “help pave the way towards better protection standards.”

The original resolution, also drafted by Brazil and Germany, stated that excessive surveillance posed a threat to human rights. It came in the wake of Edward Snowden’s revelations on the NSA’s global spying programme and was backed by the US, UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand – the Five Eyes intelligence alliance.

The UN General Assembly’s Third Committee, which looks after human rights, will vote on the drafted amendment at the end of this month, before passing the final vote to the General Assembly in December.


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