Are You In On the UN Privacy Resolution?

The debate over the protection of human rights in the online world has become embroiled in national security

By Shona Bewley, Staff Writer

The debate on online privacy is gaining momentum.

In the aftermath of the US National Security Agency’s document leaks by one of their former staff members, Edward Snowden, the world has taken note.   In response to these growing concerns, the UN has drafted a proposal entitled “The right to privacy in the digital age.”  With the online world rapidly expanding into the daily reality of human life, it is imperative that human rights in relation to the Internet be protected and enforced.

The UN resolution was initiated by the governments of Brazil and Germany, after the NSA leaks revealed information about the US spying on the for mentioned countries’ foreign leaders.  The resolution highlights the importance of online privacy as a human right.  The resolution emphasizes that “unlawful or arbitrary surveillance and/or interception of communications, as well as unlawful or arbitrary collection of personal data, as highly intrusive acts, violate the rights to privacy and freedom of expression and may contradict the tenets of a democratic society.”

This evolving debate is important to watch, as it is our daily electronic interaction – text messages, phone calls and personal information – that is being recorded and stored. This issue affects every citizen and business as these methods of gathering data go beyond governments just having the access to our information but also to how it is being used.

Although resolutions like this are not binding, the buzz around this step taken by the UN has seemingly put pressure on governments to speak out on this debate.  For instance, President Obama’s recently made a public announcement on the American government’s intent to scale back their NSA program.

He was vocal about the issue in his speech from the Department of Justice on January 17.  There he stated that “The reforms I’m proposing today should give the American people greater confidence that their rights are being protected, even as our intelligence and law enforcement agencies maintain the tools they need to keep us safe.”

Safe is the key word.

Being able to monitor, collect and store personal data from citizens, and anyone in the world for that matter, can be put under the category of national security and ensuring that the citizens of any country are safe.

What exactly does that mean to us? Can an infringement on our basic human right to privacy be justified and defended under the notion of national security?  What are our Canadian politicians and leaders saying?

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