A whistle blowin’ in the wind? Why indifference towards mass surveillance will make a difference

“One of the most disturbing aspects of the public response to Edward Snowden’s revelations about the scale of governmental surveillance is how little public disquiet there appears to be about it.“ But why should we care when most likely the majority of us will never even notice that their data are being stored and can easily be accessed by State authorities? To put it simply: because it is against the law. Despite the calls for an international agreement on the protection of data and Brazil’s and Germany’s circulation of a draft General Assembly Resolution to demand the cessation of the current spying activities, we should be aware that an international agreement to protect citizens’ privacy and correspondence already exists. That is the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) with 167 State parties and 74 signatories, among them the United States and the United Kingdom who also ratified the treaty.

What? Who? Where? – The www of human rights

There are a number of politicians and scholars who consider the disclosed spying practices to constitute a breach of international law in general and of the ICCPR in particular. But little has been said or written about the actual legal requirements to find such a violation in light of the recent revelations. The first questions that need answering are: What is protected by the ICCPR, who is protected and where must the violation occur?

Article 17 (1) ICCPR provides that:

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence […].

Even though the ICCPR was drafted in the 1960s, it is generally acknowledged that also modern forms of correspondence are covered1 ...

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