[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official website] expressed concern [press release] Wednesday over the widespread lack of transparency in governmental digital surveillance practices. The High Commissioner criticized a lack of accountability in both targeted and broad scope surveillance and condemned the practice of states coercing private telecommunications companies into providing them complete access to their customers’ communications. According to the statement, the High Commissioner’s Office is publishing a report with recommendations for safeguarding against violations of human rights, including strict accountability requirements for mass surveillance programs, limitations on third-party data retention and discontinuing surveillance based solely on race, religion or national origin.
Mass surveillance programs have been the target of widespread criticism in recent years as private citizens increasingly rely on electronic communications. Earlier this week civil liberties groups sued [JURIST report] the UK Secret Intelligence Service [official website], alleging that the agency unlawfully accesses private data from undersea cables. The US House of Representatives [official website] voted [JURIST report] in May to limit the data collection powers of the National Security Agency (NSA) [official website]. In April the New York Police Department (NYPD) [official website] discontinued [JURIST report] a controversial surveillance program targeting Muslims. Earlier that month Amnesty International [advocacy website] announced [JURIST report] the formation of a coalition to keep dictatorships and oppressive regimes from gaining access to surveillance systems and technologies.