Article Image

IPFS News Link • United Nations

The UN Cybercrime Draft Convention is a Blank Check for Unchecked Surveillance Abuses

•, By Katitza Rodriguez

The United Nations Ad Hoc Committee is just weeks away from finalizing a too-broad Cybercrime Draft Convention. This draft would normalize unchecked domestic surveillance and rampant government overreach, allowing serious human rights abuses around the world.

The latest draft of the convention—originally spearheaded by Russia but since then the subject of two and a half years of negotiations—still authorizes broad surveillance powers without robust safeguards and fails to spell out data protection principles essential to prevent government abuse of power.

As the August 9 finalization date approaches, Member States have a last chance to address the convention's lack of safeguards: prior judicial authorization, transparency, user notification, independent oversight, and data protection principles such as transparency, minimization, notification to users, and purpose limitation. If left as is, it can and will be wielded as a tool for systemic rights violations.

Countries committed to human rights and the rule of law must unite to demand stronger data protection and human rights safeguards or reject the treaty altogether. These domestic surveillance powers are critical as they underpin international surveillance cooperation.

EFF's Advocacy for Human Rights Safeguards

EFF has consistently advocated for human rights safeguards to be a baseline for both the criminal procedural measures and international cooperation chapters. The collection and use of digital evidence can implicate human rights, including privacy, free expression, fair trial, and data protection. Strong safeguards are essential to prevent government abuse.

Regrettably, many states already fall short in these regards. In some cases, surveillance laws have been used to justify overly broad practices that disproportionately target individuals or groups based on their political views—particularly ethnic and religious groups. This leads to the suppression of free expression and association, the silencing of dissenting voices, and discriminatory practices. Examples of these abuses include covert surveillance of internet activity without a warrant, using technology to track individuals in public, and monitoring private communications without legal authorization, oversight, or safeguards.