International

Germany, Brazil present UN resolution on cyberprivacy

Resolution calls for countries to extend right to privacy to Internet, other electronic communications

The draft resolution, brought to the General Assembly, does not explicitly criticize the United States for its spy activity, but U.N. diplomats reportedly said it is clearly aimed at Washington.
Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

Brazil and Germany formally presented a resolution to the U.N. General Assembly on Thursday calling for all countries to extend internationally guaranteed rights to privacy to the Internet and other electronic communications.

The resolution also calls for independent oversight mechanisms to ensure transparency and accountability of states in regard to their surveillance operations.

The draft resolution follows a series of reports about U.S. spying on foreign heads of state, including Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The reports have infuriated U.S. allies and strained ties.

The National Security Agency has also reportedly spied on U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

While the resolution does not explicitly name the United States, U.N. diplomats said it is clearly aimed at Washington, according to Reuters.

The draft resolution slams some spying as a violation of human rights: “Illegal surveillance of communications, their interception, as well as the illegal collection of personal data constitute a highly intrusive act that violates the right to privacy and freedom of expression and may threaten the foundations of a democratic society.”

It notes, however, that “concerns about public security may justify the gathering and protection of certain sensitive information” — while meeting obligations under international human rights law.

The two countries brought the resolution to the General Assembly’s Third Committee, which deals with human rights.

General Assembly resolutions are nonbinding, unlike resolutions passed by the 15-member Security Council, but carry significant political and moral weight.

And unlike those in the Security Council, General Assembly resolutions cannot be vetoed by member states.

The U.S. has said it is not monitoring Merkel’s communications and will not do so in the future, but it has not said whether it has spied on her in the past. The White House has not made such a pledge to any other heads of state.

The U.K. also faces questions from German politicians over alleged snooping. On Thursday, British Foreign Secretary William Hague declined to contradict a news report that London has a listening post in place in Germany.

Meanwhile, The New York Times reported Thursday that the CIA has been paying telecommunications giant AT&T $10 million a year to provide the agency with access to the company’s phone records. According to the Times, AT&T’s cooperation was voluntary.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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