The Need for Democratization of Digital Security Solutions to Ensure the Right to Freedom of Expression

Description: “As demonstrated by the Edward Snowden disclosures and other research, mass Internet surveillance as well as targeted digital threats present serious risks to human rights, including the right to freedom of expression and the right to privacy. While governments often justify digital surveillance and censorship efforts on the basis of national security concerns and requirements of access for law enforcement purposes, these methods disproportionately impact civil society actors—NGOs, journalists, activists, and others—that engage in work considered politically sensitive. Independent of attitudes toward the United States and its “Five Eyes” surveillance partners, methods of access to communications content (through technical and non-technical means) have proliferated to states that engage in flagrant human rights violations, as well as non-state actors interested in repression of expression. Civil society is now the target of surveillance activities by a diversity of actors in the West and elsewhere, with significant repercussions for organizations’ and individuals’ ability to advance their missions, as well as their physical safety. The pursuit of unfettered access to individual communications and data by states has thus resulted in a divergence between interests of individual security and those of national security, as defined by governments.”


Author(s): Citizen Lab (Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto) and Collin Anderson to the United Nations Special Rapporteur