back to article State surveillance boom sparked by fear-mongering political populists, says UN

The United Nations' Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy has heavily criticised new surveillance laws in France, Germany, the UK and the USA, saying they are “predicated on the … disproportionate though understandable fear that electorates may have in the face of the threat of terrorism” but are informed by “little or no …

  1. David 132 Silver badge
    Big Brother

    It's a sensible, reasonable document based on sound research.

    And for that reason, it will be completely ignored by governments because "OMG TERRURISTS HATE OUR FREEDOMS."

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Besides, it sounds like the UN wanting a global government again. No country's going to willingly give up its sovereignty.

    Then again, what happens when (not if) some small group actually does wreck half the world at once?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Some small group

      Then again, what happens when (not if) some small group actually does wreck half the world at once?

      How would they do that? Easy to say, difficult to do.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You have nothing to Fear but Fear itself

    They have nothing to Fear but Pitchforks and Tricoteuses.

    1. P. Lee

      Re: You have nothing to Fear but Fear itself

      We live in terror, quite legitimately.

      Oh wait, that wasn't right.

      Governments live in terror quite legitimately.

      That's better. Wouldn't it be so much easier if you could catch all those nasty leakers who cause MP expenses scandals, point out illegal spying by governments on their own people etc before the newspapers get a chance to print them?

      It is so much easier to contain the problem when it amounts to "Lee Harvey Oswold was caught with terrorbytes of illegally stolen data from classified government systems" rather than, "A new scandal has erupted as evidence of government wrong-doing has been published by the Guardian today."

  4. Schultz

    ...a clear route for states to access private data

    The first thing those 'states' need to realize is that they can ask for private data stored at said companies, but they should not expect the data to contain every key-press of the user. The whole debate on police accessing your private data should shift from the police drooling about all the potential data that could be generated if only every bit crossing the intertubes would be archived -- to the pragmatic discussion of data that actually exists.

    There is a difference between old-fashioned police work, catching criminals based on whatever evidence is left at a crime scene and the inherent assumption of guilt for the whole populace. Only the latter requires the storage of every bit of potential evidence for the police. Did the world get so dangerous that we need to move toward a police state for survival? I don't think so. So accept that there should be limited tools to deal with the limited problem of crime.

  5. Oengus

    A voice of reason

    He therefore calls for nations to “improve security through proportionate and effective measures not with unduly disproportionate privacy-intrusive laws.”

    Wow... a statement like this from a political type is almost unbelievable. I am worried that it will be a voice crying out in the wilderness and no one will listen (until it is too late).

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: A voice of reason

      He's not a political type. He's a distinguished academic and an IT lawyer.

  6. Wolfclaw

    Yeh right, as if the countries that are the biggest abuser will sign up or even take any notice, yes we are talking about 5-Eyes, France, Germany, Russia, NK, Iran .......... long list and can't be arsed to type them all in.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Bush wasn't a fearmongering populist after 9/11. If he had been, he wouldn't have done all that warrantless wiretapping in secret, but in the open, and claimed it was necessary to keep us safe from the hordes of terrorists washing over our borders. Obama definitely wasn't a fearmongering populist (he was a populist, but a 'hope and change' populist not a "the criminal illegal aliens are going to rape your daughters" populist) and he doubled down on the warrantless wiretapping.

    Now the US has a fearmongering populist in charge, and maybe he'll try to turn up the screws, but given his dislike for the intelligence services (probably because he knows they have access to all the secrets he's hiding in his tax returns and the dirt that the Russians have on him) he's loathe to increase their power.

  8. not.known@this.address Silver badge

    "Countries signing up to such a new treaty or additional protocol could be contributing their own specialised independent judges to a pool who would, sitting as a panel, conceivably act as a one-stop shop for relevant judicial warrants enforceable world-wide"

    Yeah, because the UN Security Council is so quick to make decisions and enforce sanctions - what makes him think the UN can do it any better in Cyberspace?

  9. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    "security through proportionate and effective measures "

    What an astonishing idea.

    Treat terrorists as criminals and catch them through the normal methods of criminal investigation IE Due process.

    The NSA didn't catch the 9/11 bombers.

    The NSA didn't catch the Boston Marathon bombers.

    And let me remind people of the women engineer who wrote "Insisting on perfect safety is for people without the balls to live in the real world."

  10. User McUser

    "disproportionate though understandable fear"

    I reject the idea that the fear is understandable. The problem is that terrorists aren't really all that dangerous; statistically speaking, you are never going to be killed by one.

    Look at it this way: According to "START" (Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism) at the University of Maryland, between 1995 and 2015 a total of 3,576 Americans were killed, world-wide, by terrorist/terrorism.

    For comparison, the National Safety Council estimates that as many as 40,000 Americans died in car crashes in 2016 alone (up 6% from 2015.)

    So if you're hundreds of times more likely to die driving to work than you are in a terrorist attack, why are people so afraid of terrorism but basically completely unafraid of driving?

  11. salamamba too

    Terrorism statistics

    In 1972 the UK saw 10,631 terrorist shootings and 1,853 bombings; 470 people were killed by terrorism.

    In 2007, there were 47 shootings and 20 bombings - all in Northern Ireland and three people were killed by paramilitaries.


    Threats to western civilisation have been dramatically over-exagerated.

    1. Christian Berger

      Well they are preparing for the future...

      ... because governments all over the world are overdoing it. Look at what is happening. Banks are failing and rescued with public money, that money is missing in schools or hospitals. Instead of getting back that money by taxing banks, the money is taken from where the consequences will only be seen in years.

      People are slowly waking up to the fact that "neo conservatism" or "thatcherism" was not a solution for problem, but instead the cause of a whole new set of new problems.

      Total surveillance can help detecting which people to squelch to prevent any kind of uprising. Depending on the model of population control you prefer, those people can simply be declared terrorist, child abuser, or get a lower population score which makes it harder to get a flat or visit a doctor.

  12. eldakka Silver badge

    But but but TERRORISM!

  13. Christian Berger

    Mixing up 2 completely different things

    "Populism" and "right-wing populism" have little in common. The first one aims for an enlightened society to govern itself, the later seeks for the 10-20% idiots in the world to give them power to act against those idiots as well as the rest of the population.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The best thing to come out of Malta since Popey was filmed there with Robin Williams. Unfortunately it will have about the same influence on the world stage. It is easier to delude a couple of 100 million americans into buyin more guns on the misconception that it will reduce terrorism, than it is to convince Western politicians that they shouldn't hoard information to fight terroriism. :-(

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