UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- Human rights groups urged the U.N. General Assembly
Thursday to approve a resolution to protect the right to privacy against
unlawful surveillance in the digital age and criticized the U.S. and its key
allies for trying to weaken it.
Brazil and Germany, whose leaders have allegedly been targeted by U.S.
eavesdropping, circulated a revised draft late Wednesday after intense
negotiations. The rights organizations said Thursday the text was
“relatively undamaged,” despite lobbying by the U.S., Britain, Canada,
Australia and New Zealand which comprise the “Five Eyes”
The key compromise dropped the contention that the domestic and
international interception and collection of communications and personal
data, “in particular massive surveillance,” may constitute a human rights
violation. The new text expresses deep concern at “the negative impact” that
such surveillance, “in particular when carried out on a mass scale, may have
on the exercise and enjoyment of human rights.”
The draft resolution directs the U.N. human rights chief to report to the
Human Rights Council and the General Assembly on the protection and
promotion of privacy “in the context of domestic and extraterritorial
surveillance ... including on a mass scale.”
The General Assembly’s human rights committee is expected to vote on the
resolution in the next week. It would then need final approval from the
General Assembly in December.
General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding but they do reflect
world opinion and carry moral and political weight.
“We are confident that this important message will find broad support within
the international community,” said Christian Doktor, spokesman for Germany’s
“For people affected by surveillance measures, it does not matter whether
such acts are undertaken in a purely domestic or an extraterritorial
context,” he told The Associated Press. “The resolution therefore stresses
the importance of protecting privacy against all types of unlawful or
arbitrary surveillance, regardless of their author.”
A spokesman for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations said the United
States has been “actively and constructively negotiating” to ensure that the
resolution is consistent with international law and also promotes human
rights, including the right to privacy and freedom of expression. The
spokesman spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to
The proposed resolution follows a series of reports of U.S. eavesdropping on
foreign leaders, including Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff and German
Chancellor Angela Merkel, that have surprised and angered allies.
Rousseff canceled a state visit to Washington after classified documents
leaked by former National Security Agency analyst Edward Snowden showed that
the NSA hacked the computer network of Brazil’s state-run oil company
Petrobras and scooped up data on emails and telephone calls flowing through
Merkel and other European leaders expressed anger recently after reports
that the NSA allegedly monitored Merkel’s cell phone and swept up millions
of French telephone records.
The draft resolution “affirms that the same rights that people have offline
must also be protected online, including the right to privacy.”