Diplomatic Council Slams “Continuous Violation” Of Data Protection Legislation by Internet Providers

The Diplomatic Council (DC), a UN-registered global think tank that seeks to act as a bridge between politics, the economy and society, has criticized internet providers for failing customers regards privacy and protection of their digital information.

Under its remit, the DC has taken technological surveillance to heart as one of the key issues threatening citizens’ rights in the modern age. In July 2015 the United Nations announced Joseph Cannataci as its first special rapporteur on the right to privacy – an appointment intended to advance the debate on what it called the battle between “privacy vs Orwellian state surveillance in the age of universal digitization.”

“There is an urgent need to bring about a harmonization via the UN, which guarantees the people all over the world a digital privacy,” said Dr Dorian Hartmuth, DC director of economic policy.

Dr Thomas Lapp, chairman of the DC’s Global Information Security Forum, explained that while, “the state has to carry out its obligations towards its citizens and hence must be entitled to wiretapping in order to uncover criminal activities in cases of reasonable suspicion,” there is a clear need for a digital privacy.

One the privacy safeguards proposed by the Diplomatic Council is an obligation for judges to document the consequences of approved wiretapping by governments. Oversight and authorization is currently “shaky”, the organization believes.

Lapp explained that, in many cases where invasions of privacy are required by government agencies, “cunning investigators” apply to their local court on Friday afternoons when senior judges are not available, and it falls to junior colleagues to make a call on whether to grant permission.

“When in doubt the young judge faces a tough choice to respond to such inquiries: either he signs off the request or next Monday morning the public prosecutor will be enquiring the district court president for an explanation for the rejection.”

Lapp suggests that judges all over the world, after approving interception of data, should be obliged to document it. The judge should then be mandated to file yearly reports specifying whether surveillance led to judicial proceedings and convictions.

In this way, the costs of interference with citizens’ right to privacy, and the desired effect of bringing criminals to justice, will become more transparent, Lapp believes.

The DC has also criticized “the continuous violation of data protection legislation by big internet companies.”

Director Dr Doran Harmuth said: “There is an instant need for a global legislation to control the escalating data acquisitiveness of the big Internet corporations.”

The think tank’s comments come after an open hearing following Mr Cannataci’s appointment as the UN’s first privacy chief.

Speaking to the Guardian, Cannataci described the current privacy situation as worse than Orwellian, and said that British oversight on these issues is currently “a joke.”

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