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U.N. Votes on Digital Rights, Wags Finger at U.S. U.N. Votes on Digital Rights, Wags Finger at U.S.

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Tech

U.N. Votes on Digital Rights, Wags Finger at U.S.

(Getty Images)

photo of Laura Ryan
December 20, 2013

The United Nations declared online privacy a worldwide human right this week, a finger wag at the U.S. government's surveillance program.

The U.N. General Assembly voted unanimously Thursday on a resolution urging the 193 member states to reel in their data-collection efforts and step up independent oversight and transparency for these program, reports the Los Angeles Times.

The resolution also calls on U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay to submit a report on the state of digital privacy to the UNHCR and General Assembly. The resolution "affirms that the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, including the right to privacy." It does not specifically mention the U.S., but the unanimous vote reflects growing international fears over individual privacy spurred by the the ongoing revelations about the U.S. digital-spying program.

 

Pillay praised whistle-blowers, specifically Edward Snowden, for their role in protecting human rights earlier this year.

"The right to privacy, the right to access to information, and freedom of expression are closely linked," Pillay said in defense of whistleblowers. "The public has the democratic right to take part in the public affairs, and this right cannot be effectively exercised by solely relying on authorized information."

Many nations have condemned the NSA surveillance program independently, but this is the first united, international response to the widespread data collection. Although the U.N.'s vote is not enforceable, its is a referendum on international public opinion.

The resolution was drawn up by two nations whose leaders were the most visible victims of the NSA's spying program: Germany and Brazil. Snowden recently asked Brazil to grant him asylum in exchange for his assistance in investigating U.S. surveillance of Brazilian citizens.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation called the vote a "giant leap against surveillance."

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