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Global Digital Compact: joint submission on targeted surveillance

Civil society, researchers, activists, and journalists have revealed in multiple instances how states’ use of unlawful surveillance tools violates human rights, including among others the right to privacy, the right to freedom of assembly and association, and the right to freedom of expression. Furthermore, the private surveillance industry has been facilitating those abuses and has been allowed to operate in the shadows unchecked. Hence, states have failed in their obligations to respect as well as to protect people from these human rights abuses.
Where surveillance is operated without adequate legal frameworks, transparency, oversight, and effective safeguards, its harms have an impact far beyond those who may have actually been targeted. In the face of opacity and inadequate safeguards, human rights defenders and journalists are forced to self-censor for fear of being persecuted for their work, even if they may not be the target of such surveillance. This can be referred to as a ‘chilling effect’ - where people refrain from exercising their rights out of fear they could be subject to unlawful surveillance. The differentiated and intersectional impacts of unlawful surveillance on vulnerable or marginalized communities, including women and LGBT groups, is particularly egregious.

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