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Dublin: 5°C Thursday 4 March 2021

Civil liberties groups claim PRISM breaches international human rights

A full-page newspaper ad, to coincide with an EU-US summit in Dublin, claims surveillance breaches United Nations conventions.

Alan Shatter will be in attendance at this morning's high-level meeting between the EU and US in Dublin.
Alan Shatter will be in attendance at this morning's high-level meeting between the EU and US in Dublin.
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

NINE MAJOR international civil liberties groups have claimed that the US’s electronic surveillance programme, PRISM, is an evident breach of international conventions on human rights.

In a newspaper advertisement, timed to coincide with a major summit between the European Union and the United States taking place in Dublin, the groups claim the reported extent of PRISM surveillance is a clear breach of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

“Recent reports indicate that the US government has the ability to acquire and monitor the content of communications and other electronic data, including location data, from international users of popular Internet services in real-time,” the joint statement reads.

“Such vast and pervasive state surveillance violates two of the most fundamental human rights: the right to privacy and to freedom of expression.”

The groups – including the Irish Council for Civil Liberties – say the extent of the reported surveillance would be a breach of Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees no “arbitrary interference” with an individual’s “privacy, family, home or correspondence”.

Similar protections are offered under Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, they claim.

The letter calls on Alan Shatter, who is the President of the EU’s Justice and Home Affairs council during Ireland’s EU presidency, to raise the issues with the US Secretary for Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, and the attorney-general Eric Holder.

Aside from the Irish body, the advertisement’s statement is signed by sister organisations in Britain, the United States, Canada, Hungary, Israel, Argentina, Egypt and Kenya.

The agenda for their meeting today includes a high-level discussion on data protection – which had been scheduled before the first reports of the PRISM surveillance scheme, which reportedly includes data harvested from the likes of Facebook, Google and Apple.

Read: EU to raise concerns about US data surveillance in Dublin summit

Plus: Sales of George Orwell’s ’1984’ up 6,000% since US surveillance scandal

About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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