Good morning all! For those who are unaware, as I was until very recently, this February 11th marks a special day, one which may become a regular thing for people in this day and age. It’s known as “The Day We Fight Back”, an international movement that embraces 360 organizations in 70 countries that are dedicated to ending mass surveillance, like that conducted by the NSA.
At the heart of this cause is the Thirteen Principles, a series of human rights obligations designed to compel all states to stop the mass spying, be it through direct observation with cameras and drones, to digital surveillance involving metadata-mining algorithms. The Principles are already being used in national campaigns and international pressure to reign in organizations like the NSA.
1. Legality: In the absence of legislation, no violation of privacy should be considered permissible and this legislative process must meet a standard of clarity and precision that is sufficient to ensure that individuals have advance notice of and can foresee its application. Also, these laws should be subject to period review.
2. Legitimate Aim: No security measures or surveillance should be conducted on the basis of race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
3. Necessity: Laws which permit surveillance should be limited to that which can be shown to be permissible by, and consistent with, a legitimate security aim. It should also only be permitted when no other means exist.
4. Adequacy: Any instance of communications surveillance authorized by law must be appropriate to fulfill the specific legitimate aim identified.
5. Proportionality: Decisions about communications surveillance must be made by weighing the benefit of that surveillance against the potential for harm that would be caused to the individual’s or others rights, and then demonstrating the benefit-cost ratio is favorable and justifiable.
6. Competent Judicial Authority: Decisions relating to the authorization of communication surveillance must be made by an independent and impartial judicial authority.
7. Due Process: The State must ensure that lawful procedures that govern any interference with human rights are properly enumerated in law. This means that, except in cases of emergency, every individual is entitled to legislative process by an independent judiciary.
8. User Notification: With few exceptions, individuals should be notified of a decision authorizing communications surveillance with enough time and information to enable them to appeal the decision, and should have access to the materials presented in support of the application for authorization.
9. Transparency: Where applied, the State – and those service providers involved – should provide individuals with sufficient information to enable them to fully comprehend the scope, nature and application of the laws permitting communications surveillance.
10. Public Oversight: States should establish independent oversight mechanisms to ensure transparency and accountability and these mechanisms should have the authority to access all potentially relevant information about actions taken in order to assess their legitimacy.
11. Integrity of communications and systems: States should not compel service providers, hardware or software vendors to build surveillance or monitoring capability into their systems, or to collect or retain particular information purely for State surveillance purposes.
12. Safeguards for international cooperation: The mutual legal assistance treaties (MLATs) and other agreements entered into by states should ensure that, where the laws of more than one state could apply to communications surveillance, the available standard with the higher level of protection for individual rights is applied.
13. Safeguards against illegitimate access: States should enact legislation that provides significant civil and criminal penalties for public and private organizations that conduct illegal communications surveillance, as well as legal protection for whistle blowers, and avenues for redress by affected individuals.
All of these principles speak directly to the recent revelations made about domestic and online surveillance by the NSA and other security agencies in the past decade or so. They also embrace numerous suggestions that have been made since the issue first broke in the mid 2000’s about way it could be redressed. These have only become more relevant since, thanks to the expansions that have taken place.
Already, many of them are being seriously considered by the Obama administration as a means of making PRISM and other NSA surveillance programs acceptable. By spelling them out to this degree, the public has the opportunity to make it clear that any surveillance is conditional, and until such time as these conditions are met, the issue will not be closed. I have signed on, and hope that others will as well.
If there’s one thing I have learned in the course of Snowden’s revelations about NSA surveillance, and the nature of what Keith Alexander and his minions do over at Fort Meade, it is that cyber surveillance is this age is an evolving thing. If the law is expected to evolve with it, and we are to avoid passive acceptance of these intrusions in our lives, then we must play an active role in how that law is written and implemented.
Click on the image below to find out more about this campaign, or to sign on: