On December 18, 2013, the United Nations adopted a resolution 68/167 known as the “right to privacy in the digital age. This resolution was adopted as a result of the Edward Snowden scandal where foreign leaders Dilma Rousseff from Brazil and Angela Merkel from Germany were alerted to the fact that the United States National Security Agency had been eavesdropping on them. Not only did this prompt a resolution, but caused Rouseff to cancel a visit to Washington after the leader found out that the she was the top NSA Target in Latin America. The classified documents also revealed that Rousseff’s cellphone had been monitored and the NSA had hacked into the internal network of state-run oil company Petrobras. Merkel was treated similarly by the NSA and European leaders have expressed their anger as well.
The resolution reaffirms the human right to privacy and that no person should be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful treatment with his or her privacy. While the resolution has noted that this privacy extends to areas such as the family, home, correspondence – which has been widely accepted as privacy areas within the United States – the resolution also emphasized that surveillance and/or interception of personal data is a violation of rights and contradict the tenets of a democratic society. The United Nations is concerned about the negative impacts that such surveillance may have on human rights and that measures to combat terrorism must be in compliance with obligations under international law. These include respecting international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law.
It is clear that all of this is a direct attack on the United States for their oppressive infringement of people’s right to privacy and the US shirking from their democratic responsibility. While the fact that this was addressed only after foreign leader’s privacy was infringed should not escape up; this is all a positive step in the right direction for having freedom in our online and mobile phone lives, instead of fear of intrusion into our privacy. The NSA has had an unfettered and unlawful hold over the privacy rights of individuals for far too long, and while it seems like it has taken a UN resolution to confirm it, I believe the old adage has never been more true: “better late than never.”
Hopefully, this will actually spur Congress into adopting a more citizen savvy law, that protects the privacy rights of United States citizens and foreign nationals who come to this country. What would be even better is an executive order from President Obama demanding that the NSA fall into compliance with international law, but that may be asking for too much. How do you feel about how the United Nation has dealt with the issue of privacy? Should more be done to push the United States into a more free society? How much freedom should be sacrificed under the guise of “counterterrorism”? What other countries do you feel need to fall in line with the UN resolution?