Landmark UN report on surveillance and freedom of expression

Seattle Privacy Coalition co-founder Allegra Searle-LeBel points us to this excellent EFF article, which summarizes a special landmark report [PDF] on state surveillance and freedom of expression delivered this week by Frank La Rue, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Opinion.

It makes for refreshing and relieving reading, we highly recommend it. As EFF puts it, the UN “gets it” — that with all the amount of information and evolving surveillance technologies, law enforcement agencies now can:

  • Directly observe people’s relationships and interactions and make inferences about their intimate and protected relationships.
  • Examine millions of people’s communications and rapidly identify precise communications interactions on any given topic.
  • Track any person’s physical movements almost all of the time and draw conclusions about one’s professional, sexual, political, and religious activities, and attitudes from individuals’ associations and Internet traffic.
  • Routinely retain data for decades, so that statements and interactions can be searched, analyzed, and recalled long after they have been made.
  • Do all of the above simultaneously.

La Rue calls for legal frameworks to ensure that communication surveillance measures “Are prescribed by law, meeting a standard of clarity and precision that is sufficient to ensure that individuals have advance notice of and can foresee their application,Are strictly and demonstrably necessary to achieve a legitimate aim, adhere to the principle of proportionality, and are not employed when less invasive techniques are available which have not yet been exhausted.”