U.N.: Nations Hide Rise in Private Digital Snooping

Stepping into a fierce debate over digital privacy rights, the U.N. human rights office says it has strong evidence of a growing complicity among private companies in government spying. It says governments around the world are using both legal and covert methods to access private content and metadata, amounting to “de facto coercion” of companies.

John Heilprin 

Governments on every continent are hiding an increasing reliance on private companies to snoop on citizens’ digital lives, the U.N. human rights office said Wednesday.

Stepping into a fierce debate over digital privacy rights, the U.N. office says it has strong evidence of a growing complicity among private companies in government spying. It says governments around the world are using both legal and covert methods to access private content and metadata.

snooping

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said the lack of transparency and tactics extends to governments’ “de facto coercion” of companies to gain broad access to information and data on citizens without them knowing. Among the evidence the U.N. cited is its questionnaire to member nations, European court rulings and a European Digital Rights report on the “slide” from corporate self-regulation to self-censorship.

The report to the U.N. General Assembly says concerns about the erosion in privacy have increased since last year’s revelations of U.S. and British mass surveillance. It said stricter laws are needed to prevent violations and ensure accountability when digital technology and surveillance is misused.

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