Fifth Session of the General Assembly, Legal Committee
Agenda Item Four: Right to Privacy in a Digit Age
UNGA Scenario – Right to Privacy in the Digital Age
The digital communications revolution has led to “perhaps the greatest liberation movement the world has ever known,” the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Flavia Pansieri suggests. However at the same time it has become clear that these new technologies are vulnerable to electronic surveillance and interception. Recent discoveries have revealed how new technologies are being developed covertly, often to facilitate these practices, with frightening efficiency. Previous High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, cautioned in past statements, such surveillance threatens individual rights – including to privacy and to freedom of expression and association – and inhibits the free functioning of a vibrant civil society. The negative impact that surveillance and interception of communications may have on human rights is of deep concern, and the international community needs to make clear what the norms of rights to privacy are in in the digital age.
As it stands, international human rights law provides the universal framework against which any interference in individual privacy rights must be assessed. Other international human rights instruments contain similar provisions. However the right to privacy under international human rights law is not absolute, but any instance of interference must be subject to a careful and critical assessment of its necessity, legitimacy and proportionality. Current International Human Right’s
The main issue here is with the balance between people’s right to privacy and safeguarding against potential threats, especially terrorism. Edward Snowden brought to light global surveillance schemes and intelligence alliances between the USA and countries across the globe. The existence of such Mass Surveillance programmes is justified in terms of the benefits for defence and law enforcement, however this is also in conflict with the right to privacy established under various treaties, constitutions, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Nevertheless with the rise and use of the Internet being more recent, some question the right to privacy in the digital age can only truly be a value or interest, rather than a right.
The aim of this session is to amend Working Paper 1.0 so it can be passed and then adopted as a resolution by the General Assembly. Particular focus should be on the wording of the clauses, and the potential repercussions from its phrases to balance the right to privacy of citizens and the ability for states to gather intelligence. For further investigation and detail surrounding this issue, the General Assembly can call upon the Human Rights Council and the High Commissioner for panel discussions and reports.
Ultimately it is up to the member states to provide their own comprehensive legislation and procedures surrounding surveillance, interception and their citizens’ rights to privacy in digital communication. However emphasis on the need for States to ensure the full and effective implementation of their obligations under international human rights law is encouraged, though not all Member States agree upon how this should be.
No Resolution Adopted Yet