Access Now is an advocacy group that “defends and extends the digital rights of users at risk around the world.” It calls privacy “the cornerstone for human rights in the digital age,” an idea we completely agree with.
The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is a forum for holding governments accountable. When the group called for submissions to its report on “the right to privacy in the digital age”, Access Now submitted a report with the following recommendations:
- The United Nations and states should protect the right to privacy, a universal and enforceable human right
- Every government should develop a binding framework to ensure the right to data protection, alongside protection and promotion of the right to privacy
- Government mass surveillance should be banned for its unnecessary and disproportionate restriction of a range of human rights
- Surveillance tools, including software and equipment, should not be provided to governments that are likely to use them to undermine human rights defenders like activists and journalists
- Governments should not seek to undermine encryption, for instance through backdoors or weakened standards
- In the use of data-driven technology and biometrics, public and private sector entities should abide by the principles of security, data protection, and privacy by design, and strive at all times for data minimization
- Regulators should put in force frameworks ensuring data protection, privacy, and transparency obligations for security firms and data brokers, who are often unregulated
- Individuals should be afforded legal remedies for measures that impact their right to privacy, including unlawful or arbitrary state surveillance
Access Now’s report focuses mainly on government surveillance, or efforts by governments to undermine or minimize privacy protections offered by internet companies.
Encryption and anonymity, separately or together, create a zone of privacy to protect opinion and belief. Encryption and anonymity provide individuals and groups with a zone of privacy online to develop and hold opinions and exercise freedom of expression without arbitrary and unlawful interference or attacks.
Not all companies act with their customers’ best interests in mind. However those that do should not be forced to hand over private information whenever the government requests it. The trust between people and the companies they use, encourages free speech and free flow of ideas. If governments are allowed to breach this trust, it greatly hinders free and honest communication and political discourse.