Ireland has central role in global surveillance and privacy rights, says Human Rights Watchdog
The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) will today (Wednesday 7th December 2016) host a symposium on privacy rights in the digital age. Challenging the notion that digital surveillance operations by law enforcement agencies are harmless intrusions, UN Special Rapporteur on Privacy, Professor Joseph Cannataci will lead a panel of international experts to discuss instances where surveillance activities in many jurisdictions have operated in clear violation of civil and human rights.
Joining Prof Canatacci will be Ben Wizner, Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU’s) Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, and legal advisor for Edward Snowden whose 2013 disclosure of classified information from the National Security Agency (NSA) reverberated throughout the world. The symposium will also hear from T.J. McIntyre, Lecturer in Law at University College Dublin whose independent civil liberties group Digital Rights Ireland (DRI) has been involved in a number of key legal actions relation to data retention and privacy in recent years in Ireland and in Europe.
The symposium takes place at a key moment for global civil liberties, and especially for privacy rights. The Snowden leaks in 2013 disclosed the scale of contemporary surveillance capacity. The scope and range of collection and use of personal data has dramatically increased since the original ‘Safe Harbour’ decision was issued in 2000. To update the limited legal framework covering the transfer of data between US and EU countries in February 2016, the European Commission and the U.S. Department of Commerce reached a political agreement on a new framework for transatlantic exchanges of personal data for commercial purposes: the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield.
Drawing on examples from around the world, including the recent controversy concerning the suspected ‘bugging’ of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC), panellists will discuss the global challenges to fundamental freedoms which are giving rise to questions about the resilience of our data privacy laws to protect human rights and civil liberties.
Speaking ahead of the event, Mr Liam Herrick, Executive Director of the ICCL said:
“The threat posed to individual privacy rights by state surveillance and misuse of data is one of the great civil liberties issues of our time. The challenge is international in nature, involves both private sector and state actors, and is becoming increasingly complex as technology and mechanism for sharing data develop.
“As Ireland provides the European Headquarters for a number of global technology companies, Ireland is now a major focus of this global interface of surveillance and privacy. European and Irish data protection, surveillance and data retention laws are a key influencer in the scope of the activities of data gathering corporations which reach far beyond our borders. In that regard, concerns about Irish oversight and accountability systems in relation to surveillance, interception and data retention – concerns consistently identify by organisations such as ICCL and Digital Rights Ireland – now take on a global significance.”, Mr Herrick concluded.
The event is being held in conjunction with International Network Civil Liberties Organisations (INCLO), of which ICCL is a member. The symposium will also include the European launch of the INCLO’s Surveillance and Democracy Report, which recounts examples of serious violations of privacy rights in ten different states.
The symposium will be moderated by Irish Times journalist and expert in technology and privacy issues Karlin Lillington.
Notes for Editor
The full text of the report is available here.
ABOUT THE INTERNATIONAL NETWORK OF CIVIL LIBERTIES ORGANIZATIONS (INCLO)
INCLO is a global network of 12 independent, national human rights organisations from across the globe that work together to promote fundamental rights and freedoms by supporting and mutually reinforcing the work of member organisations in their respective countries and collaborating on a bilateral and multilateral basis. INCLO members advocate on behalf of persons in their respective countries through a mix of litigation, legislative campaigning, public education and grass-roots advocacy.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU, United States); Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA, Canada); Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR, Egypt); Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU, Hungary); Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL, Ireland); Legal Resources Center (LRC, South Africa); Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI, Israel); Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS, Argentina); Human Rights Law Network (HRLN, India); International Human Rights Group Agora (Russia); Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC, Kenya); Liberty (United Kingdom).