Germany and Brazil on Thursday called on the United Nations to back action to limit cyber snooping amid a backlash against US spying on its allies.
The two proposed a UN General Assembly resolution which seeks special monitoring for “ensuring transparency and accountability of state surveillance of communications.”
The resolution does not mention the United States but German and Brazilian envoys made clear the anger at allegations of US snooping on their leaders.
“Reports about mass surveillance of private communication and the collection of personal data have alarmed people all over the world,” Germany’s UN ambassador Peter Wittig told a General Assembly rights committee as he presented the resolution.
“They ask a legitimate question: is their right to privacy still protected effectively in our digital world?”
“Where do we draw the line between legitimate security concerns and the individual right to privacy?” Wittig added.
The US National Security Agency has been accused of monitoring the mobile phone of Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and the office communications of Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff.
Antionio Patriota, Brazil’s UN envoy, reaffirmed Roussef’s accusations of “grave” breaches of privacy “as a result of mass surveillance of personal communications and data.”
“Brazil believes it is crucial for the international community to engage in a serious, in-depth debate on how to uphold certain fundamental rights of human beings in the digital age,” Patriota added.
“Privacy is of the essence in safeguarding individuals against the abuse from power,” the envoy said.
The resolution, expected to be voted on this month and would be non-binding, expresses deep concern at “human rights violations and abuses that may result from the conduct of any surveillance of communications, including extraterritorial surveillance of communications.”
It calls on UN human rights chief Navi Pillay to produce a report on data surveillance and for states to extend protections under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to communications surveillance.
It says states should “review their procedures, practices and legislation regarding the surveillance of communications, their interception and collection of personal data, including massive surveillance, interception and collection.”
The Brazil-German draft says governments should “establish independent national oversight mechanisms” for “ensuring transparency and accountability of state surveillance of communications, their interception and collection of personal data.”
Austria, France, Bolivia, Uruguay, Liechtenstein, Peru and Uruguay were among early co-sponsors of the resolution which could be amended before the final vote.
North Korea, one of the world’s most tightly-controlled states, also co-sponsored the text.
[Image via Agence France-Presse]