Some of Canada's best-known authors – including Margaret Atwood, Yann Martel and John Ralston Saul – added their names to an online petition condemning mass surveillance by governments and corporations.

Signed by more than 550 prominent writers in more than 80 countries, the petition calls on governments to stop treating individuals as suspects and urges the United Nations to create an international bill of digital rights for states to sign and obey.

The petition, entitled A Stand for Democracy in the Digital Age, was launched in December, following revelations of widespread electronic spying, as outlined in documents leaked by Edward Snowden.

Saul, the president of PEN International – whose 20,000 members endorsed the petition – and the husband of former governor general Adrienne Clarkson, says Canada is “one of those countries in which… tools are being used to invade privacy.”