Nobel Prize laureates have joined 562 authors from 81 countries around the world to sign a petition demanding that the UN create an international ‘digital bill of rights’ to put an end to government surveillance activities and the erosion of the human right to privacy in the digital age.  The petition is likely to be particularly potent in the aftermath of the Edward Snowden revelations about mass surveillance techniques deployed by the GCHQ with Tempora and PRISM by the NSA.

The opening to the petition states, ‘All humans have the right to remain unobserved and unmolested. This fundamental human right has been rendered null and void through the abuse of technological developments by states and corporations for mass surveillance purposes.’

The petition therefore demands the right for all people to determine to what extent their personal data may be collected, stored and processed and by whom, to obtain information on where their data is stored and used, and to obtain deletion upon request. 

The release of the petition follows a day after leading technology companies, including AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo, published a letter to President Barack Obama demanding the United States take the lead in global government surveillance reform. 

The letter calls for governments to endorse and implement five principles to reform state-sponsored surveillance, including:

  1. Codify limitations on government authority to collect user information, including avoiding bulk data collection
  2. Intelligence agencies seeking to compel production of information should do so within a clear legal framework
  3. Transparency about government demands by allowing companies to publish the number and nature of the demands
  4. Respect the free flow of information across borders
  5. Avoid conflict of laws by governments working together

The letter stated, ‘It is time for the world’s governments to address the practices and laws regulating government surveillance of individuals and access to their information.’ Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg added, ‘US government should take this opportunity to lead this reform effort and make things right to restore trust.’