A large group of privacy and digital rights organizations has put together a new effort to urge politicians to curtail the mass surveillance operations that have been exposed in the last few months.
The new coalition has developed a set of 13 principles for governments to follow in their intelligence gathering efforts and started a petition that it plans to deliver to the United Nations and governments around the world. Known as Necessary and Proportionate, the anti-surveillance group includes the EFF, Privacy International, Access, the Chaos Computer Club and many others.
The petition that the group has started has been signed by a slew of other organizations and privacy and security experts from around the world, including the Citizen Lab, Digital Courage, the Internet Governance Project, Bruce Schneier, Morgan Marquis-Boire and Jennifer Granick.
“Surveillance can and does threaten human rights, ” EFF International Rights Director Katitza Rodriguez said in a statement. “Even laws intended to protect national security or combat crime will inevitably lead to abuse if left unchecked and kept secret. The Necessary and Proportionate Principles set the groundwork for applying human rights values to digital surveillance techniques through transparency, rigorous oversight and privacy protections that transcend borders.”
The Necessary and Proportionate effort is just the latest response to the revelations of the surveillance methods employed by the National Security Agency, GCHQ in the U.K. and other intelligence agencies.
There have been other petitions started, including one to demand the resignation of NSA Director Keith Alexander. The Necessary and Proportionate coalition has put together a list of 13 principles that the groups involved say should be used to guide the “determination of whether the State may conduct communications surveillance that interferes with protected information”. The principles include legality, legitimate aim, necessity, adequacy and proportionality. The latter principle is at the center of what the coalition is trying to achieve.
“Communications surveillance should be regarded as a highly intrusive act that interferes with the rights to privacy and freedom of opinion and expression, threatening the foundations of a democratic society. Decisions about communications surveillance must be made by weighing the benefit sought to be achieved against the harm that would be caused to the individual’s rights and to other competing interests, and should involve a consideration of the sensitivity of the information and the severity of the infringement on the right to privacy,” the principle’s text says.
Once the petition is finished, the group plans to deliver copies to the U.N. and government leaders around the world to ask for their support.
“In 2013, we learned digital surveillance by world governments knows no bounds. Their national intelligence and other investigative agencies can capture our phone calls, track our location, peer into our address books, and read our emails. They do this often in secret, without adequate public oversight, and in violation of our human rights. We won’t stand for this anymore,” Rodrigues wrote in a blog post.
Image from Flickr photos of Frederic Bisson.