The parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe has unequivocally stated in a report that it considers mass digital spying, such as that enacted by the NSA, GCHQ and other security agencies, to be a fundamental threat to human rights.
The rights body says it is “deeply concerned” by the “far-reaching, technologically advanced systems” that countries around the world, including EU countries, are using to spy on their citizens. The report cites the numerous revelations around the NSA’s and GCHQ’s programs, first leaked by Edward Snowden.
In the body’s view, fundamental rights such as those to privacy, freedom of religion and freedom of speech are jeopardized by the lack of accountability and oversight that such programs have operated under.
Better supervision, strong legal oversight from civilian courts, proper rules for sharing data and so on are the rules that the parliamentary assembly is proposing, in order to address the issues.
While the body’s suggestions are in no way legally binding, and each country inside the EU has the right to take them or leave them, the European Court of Human Rights does take these into account and they may factor in its numerous cases that privacy advocates have brought against spying governments.
But what will the EU as a whole do about the problem? Enact more spying, of course. The Guardian is reporting on a proposal from the European commission that would require personal data of all passengers flying in and out of Europe to be stored up to five years.
This comes as part of an anti-terrorism effort spurned by the recent attacks in France and elsewhere around Europe. In the aftermath of those tragic events, politicians and agencies were quick to call for more surveillance, less oversight, less privacy, fewer rights.
Luckily the proposal still has to be approved by the European Parliament before it actually becomes reality, but that hasn’t stopped individual countries from enacting similar measures against basic human rights.