Amnesty International issues plan to protect human rights in digital age

Amnesty International and Privacy International proposed a seven-point plan on Friday to help protect human rights in the digital age.
Amnesty International and Privacy International proposed a seven-point plan on Friday to help protect human rights in the digital age.

Amnesty International and Privacy International proposed a seven-point plan on Friday to help protect human rights in the digital age.

The plan addresses legal and policy reform and corporate due diligence, and more specifically, recommends that surveillance should only occur when it's targeted, based on evidence of wrongdoing and authorized by an unbiased authority figure, such as a judge.

All surveillance powers should also be overseen by unbiased parliamentary and judicial powers, the group wrote, and there should be equal privacy protections for nationals and non-nationals, those within the borders of a state and outside of it.

Furthermore, governments shouldn't make encryption or anonymization technologies illegal, Amnesty wrote. These suggestions follow a recent United Nations report that said imposing limitations on default encryption hinders access to human rights.

Amnesty's plan also advocated for strong legal protection of whistleblowers who disclosed public interest information, including information on human rights violations.

Former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden released his own opinion piece on Friday, as well, to reflect on the past two years in government surveillance, or since the initial release of his document cache.

“We are witnessing the emergence of a post-terror generation, one that rejects a worldview defined by a singular tragedy,” he wrote. “For the first time since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, we see the outline of a politics that turns away from reaction and fear in favor of resilience and reason. With each court victory, with every change in the law, we demonstrate facts are more convincing than fear.”

The recent passing of the USA Freedom Act and the patching of vulnerabilities in the foundation of the internet, such as Heartbleed, demonstrate the ushering in of a new era, Snowden wrote.

He also pointed to Apple as upping the privacy ante by enabling default encryption on its new operating system.

“Such structural technological changes can ensure access to basic privacies beyond borders, insulating ordinary citizens from the arbitrary passage of anti-privacy laws, such as those now descending upon Russia,” he said.

With encryption and backdoors in mind, three U.S. Representatives included two amendments on a funding bill earlier this week that would protect against any government push to limit encryption.

One amendment from Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., and Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, stops the government from forcing a company to alter its security measure to assist in user surveillance. The other, from Lofgren and Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., would withhold funds related to setting cryptographic guidelines, unless those suggestions would improve security, The Hill reported.

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