Human Rights Treaties and Foreign Surveillance: Privacy in the Digital Age

March 31, 2014

These provisions are broad yet vague.[6] They are also coupled with the preliminary threshold question of whether they would apply in the first place to extraterritorial surveillance. But while there are many uncertainties regarding the application of human rights treaties to intelligence gathering, they are not insurmountable. Indeed, it is inevitable that human rights language and fora will be used in challenging the legality of electronic surveillance programs, as is already being done by privacy activists.7 Special rapporteurs of the UN Human Rights Council have started examining the impact of counter­terrorism measures on the right to privacy.[8]

  • 7. See I​nternational Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance,​10 July 2013, at (a set of 13 principles drawn from human rights law that would apply to both domestic and extraterritorial surveillance, drafted by numerous civil society organizations in comprehensive process led by Privacy International, Access, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation).

GISWatch Report - Communications Surveillance in the Digital Age

­September, 2014 - by Amie Stepanovich, Drew Mitnick and Kayla Robinson. Chapter on United States of America, The Necessary and Proportionate Principles and the US government.

One Year After the Snowden Revelations: How the NSA Violates International Human Rights Standards

June 5, 2014 - Global Voices op-ed on NSA surveillance and international human rights standards

Even before Snowden leaked his first document, human rights lawyers and activists were concerned about law enforcement and intelligence agencies spying on the digital world. One of the tools developed to tackle those concerns was the development of the International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance (the “Necessary and Proportionate Principles” ). This set of principles was intended to guide governments in understanding how new surveillance technologies eat away at fundamental freedoms, and outlined how communications surveillance can be conducted in a manner consistent with human rights obligations. The Necessary and Proportionate Principles are intended to work as a resource for citizens to measure government surveillance practices against international human rights standards.

Comments of Human Rights Watch to Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board Hearing

­March 19, 2014 - “The Surveillance Program Operated Pursuant to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act”

Members of civil society groups and experts in communications surveillance law, policy and technology, have drawn upon this case law to assemble a set of principles on application of human rights law to communications surveillance. The document, called 'Necessary and Proportionate: International Principles on the Application of Human Rights Law to Communications Surveillance,' are drawn from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the ICCPR, the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), the Inter­American Convention on Human Rights (I­ACHR) and the African Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Charter), but also adjudicative bodies like the HRC and ECtHR, UN Resolutions and reports of Special Rapporteurs.[43] The principles have been signed by hundreds of human rights and civil society groups, including Human Rights Watch.

Two years after Snowden: Protecting human rights in an age of mass surveillance

June 4, 2015

Further explore and develop means and measures needed to ensure better implementation of the international human rights standards applicable to communications surveillance, building on efforts towards identifying relevant elements that have started in the past two years, including reports by the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, as well as civil society initiatives such as the Necessary and Proportionate Principles.

It's time for our governments to stop eavesdropping and start listening

January 28, 2015 - by Privacy International.

So if that’s what they are interested in, what numbers aren’t they paying attention to?

Comparing NSA Reforms to International Law: A New Graphic by AccessNow

April 23, 2014 - by April Glaser.

Our friends at AccessNow measured how the four legislative proposals stack up against the 13 Principles. Unfortunately, none of the proposed solutions fully bring the NSA back within the bounds of human rights laws. But one in particular, the USA FREEDOM Act, is in closest (although, still imperfect) concordance with the Principles.

Ecuador's New Penal Code Would Violate Internet Privacy

October 21, 2013

The 'Open Letter to President Rafael Correa and Assembly Members on Internet Privacy and the Draft of the Integral Organic Penal Code,' published on citizen media and various blogs, states, among other things, the following: We urge the National Assembly and the Government of Ecuador to make the proposed law compatible with international human rights standards, in order to safeguard privacy, freedom of expression, and freedom of association with the greatest rigor, in the context of strengthening the democratic system in accordance with the International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance.

13 Necessary and Proportionate Principles: The View from Canada

September 19, 2014 - by Carmen Cheung. This article discusses state obligations to respect international human rights law and safeguards for international cooperation, from a Canadian perspective.


September 19, 2014 - by 莊庭瑞(中央研究院資訊科學研究所副研究員)