UN Human Rights Report Confirms Government Surveillance Violates Privacy Rights

July 16, 2014 12:00 am

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NEW YORK – The United Nation’s High Commissioner for Human Rights today issued a report, “The Right to Privacy in the Digital Age,” the result of an investigation into the human rights implications of government surveillance programs around the world. Steven Watt, senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union Human Rights Program had the following reaction to the report’s findings:

“This report confirms what we have already known: that the U.S. government’s mass surveillance programs are inherently arbitrary and violate international obligations to protect the privacy of people everywhere. It also debunks many of the legal and policy justifications that the United States has advanced for its bulk surveillance operations. This report serves as a wake-up call to the Obama administration to put its words into action by putting in place privacy protections for people around the globe, as the administration has already expressly endorsed.”

The report is due to be presented by the High Commissioner for Human Rights to the Human Rights Council at its next session in Geneva this September, and to the U.N. General Assembly in New York in October.

The UN report notes that “mass or ‘bulk’ surveillance programmes may […] be deemed to be arbitrary, even if they serve a legitimate aim and have been adopted on the basis of an accessible legal regime. In other words, it will not be enough that the measures are targeted to find certain needles in a haystack; the proper measure is the impact of the measures on the haystack, relative to the harm threatened; namely, whether the measure is necessary and proportionate.”

The full UN report is available at:

ACLU report on human right to privacy in the digital age is available at:

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