Germany and Brazil have made alterations to a United Nations draft resolution on the issue of state surveillance, with the two countries calling for protection against government spying on communications and personal data.
It represents a new version of the anti-surveillance resolution which was adopted by the UN last year following in the wake of Edward Snowden’s revelations about the extent to which states are collecting metadata for the purposes of spying on citizens.
Metadata includes detailed information about who people are communicating with, where they made the communication and what websites they visit, in essence allowing the government to paint a highly accurate picture about who that person is and how they live their daily lives.
The re-write of the UN draft resolution by its German and Brazilian authors has described this act of collecting metadata for state surveillance as a “highly intrusive act”.
The draft resolution, which has been submitted to all 193 UN members, says the practices “violate the right to privacy and can interfere with the freedom of expression and may contradict the tenets of a democratic society, especially when undertaken on a mass scale”.
Both Brazil and Germany have had their networks breached by US surveillance systems, so it’s no wonder the two countries have taken it upon themselves to move against spying.
The US’s National Security Agency tapped into the networks of Brazilian oil firm Petroleo Brasileiro SA, while earlier this year it was revealed that the NSA monitored phone calls of current German Chancellor Angela Merkel and former German leader Gerhard Schroeder.
The co-authored Brazilian and German draft also suggests the United Nations should appoint a special envoy to identify and clarify standards protecting privacy rights. They also call on other states to be required to provide a remedy should an individual’s right to privacy be violated by state-operated surveillance.
A vote on the draft will take place in the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee – the body within the organisation that deals with human rights – later this month. If successful, it will be put a United Nations resolution in December.
“As the universal guardian of human rights, the United Nations must play a key role in defending the right to privacy, as well as freedom of opinion and expression in our digital world,” said Germany’s UN Ambassador, Harald Braun.
He added that the draft resolution will “help pave the way towards better protection standards”.
Since Snowden first revealed the extent to which governments use web surveillance, the revelations have continued apace. Indeed, just last month it was publicly admitted by the government that GCHQ monitors bulk information collected by foreign surveillance agencies, including the NSA, and does so despite not having any sort of warrant.