Posted by Richard Willett - Memes and headline comments by David Icke Posted on 10 July 2024

UN Cybercrime Draft Convention Dangerously Expands State Surveillance Powers Without Robust Privacy, Data Protection Safeguards

By Katitza Rodriguez

This is the third post in a series highlighting flaws in the proposed UN Cybercrime Convention. Check out Part I, our detailed analysis on the criminalization of security research activities, and Part II, an analysis of the human rights safeguards. 

As we near the final negotiating session for the proposed UN Cybercrime Treaty, countries are running out of time to make much-needed improvements to the draft text. Delegates meeting in New York July 29 to August 9 are tasked with finalizing the convention’s text that, if adopted, could dramatically reshape criminal laws across the world in favor of more and wider surveillance and weaker human rights safeguards.

Countries that believe in the rule of law must stand up and either defeat the convention or dramatically limit its scope, adhering to non-negotiable red lines as outlined by over 100 NGOs. In an uncommon alliance, civil society and industry agreed earlier this year in a joint letter that the treaty as it was currently drafted  must be rejected  and amended to protect privacy and data protection rights—none of which have been made in the latest version of the proposed Convention.

The UN Ad Hoc Committee overseeing the talks and preparation of a final text is expected to consider a revised but still-flawed text  in its entirety, along with the interpretative notes, during the first week of the session, with a focus on all provisions not yet agreed ad referendum. However, in keeping with the principle in multilateral negotiations that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, any provisions of the draft that have already been agreed could potentially be reopened.

An updated draft, dated May 23, 2024, but released on June 14th, is far from settled, though. Tremendous disagreements still exist among countries on crucial issues, including the scope of cross border surveillance powers and protection of human rights. Nevertheless, some countries expect the latest draft  to be adopted.

Earlier drafts included criminalization of a wide range of speech, and a number of non-cyber crimes. Just when we thought Member States had succeeded in removing many of the most concerning crimes from the convention’s text, they could be making a reappearance. The Ad-Hoc Committee Chair’s proposed General Assembly resolution includes a promise of two additional sessions to negotiate an amendment with more crimes: “a draft protocol supplementary to the Convention, addressing, inter alia, additional criminal offenses.”

Let us be clear: Without robust mandatory data protection and privacy safeguards, the updated draftis bad news for people around the world. It will exacerbate existing disparities in human rights protections, potentially allowing increased government overreach, unchecked surveillance, and access to sensitive data that will leave individuals vulnerable to privacy and data protection violations, human rights abuses, or transnational repression. Critical privacy safeguards continue to be woefully inadequate, and there are no explicit data protection principles in the text itself.

Read More: UN Cybercrime Draft Convention Dangerously Expands State Surveillance Powers

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