(NaturalNews) We hear a lot of talk these days about "civil rights," but we don't hear much chatter about how our very own Bill of Rights is really the ultimate collection of civil rights.
The right to speak freely; the right to worship as you choose; the right to be free from unwarranted prosecution; the right to assemble and protest your government peacefully - these are some of the most basic of human and civil rights.
Another of those - the right to be left alone by government and have your own privacy - is one civil right that is constantly being abused in this, the Digital Age. And yet we don't hear a peep about it from most of our politicians, especially those who are always stumping for other "civil rights" issues.
'It's time to restore human rights to their place'
That may be about to change. Dozens of organizations in the U.S. and around the world - more than 100 to be exact - are taking a stand against the kind of widespread, invasive electronic surveillance being conducted against Americans and citizens of other countries by our respective "spy" agencies.
According to the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF), these groups "are taking a stand against unchecked communications surveillance, calling for the governments around the world to follow international human rights law and curtail pervasive spying."
"It's time to restore human rights to their place at the very heart of the surveillance debate," said EFF International Director Danny O'Brien, in a press release. "Widespread government spying on communications interferes with citizens' ability to enjoy a private life, and to freely express themselves - basic rights we all have. But the mass metadata collected in the U.S. surveillance program, for example, makes it extraordinarily easy for the government to track what groups we associate with and why we might contact them. These principles announced today represent a global consensus that modern surveillance has gone too far and must be restrained."
EFF says that the coalition of organizations have each signed off on the "International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communication Surveillance," a document consisting of 13 basic principles "that spell out how existing human rights law applies to modern digital surveillance."
More from EFF:
Written in response to the increasing number of government surveillance standards that focus on law enforcement and "national security" priorities instead of citizens' rights, the principles include advice on how surveillance laws should respect the law, due process, and include public oversight and transparency. Current debates over government surveillance are often limited by outmoded definitions of content versus metadata, or stored data versus data in transit. The principles released today concentrate on the core issue: how human rights protect all information that reveals private information about an individual's communications.
It seems that people other than Americans are sick and tired of their governments abusing their privacy as well.
A false choice: security or privacy
"International human rights law binds every country across the globe to a basic respect for freedom of expression and personal privacy," said EFF International Rights Director Katitza Rodriguez.
"The pervasiveness of surveillance makes standing up for our digital rights more important than ever. And we need those rights to survive in a digital world, where any state can spy on us all, in more detail than ever before," he adds. "We know that surveillance laws need to be transparent and proportionate, with judicial oversight, and that surveillance should only be used when absolutely necessary. Everything we've heard about the NSA programs indicate that they fall far outside these international human rights principles."
Here at home, Americans seem divided on the issue of privacy. Many are choosing to believe President Obama and many members of both parties that the government needs to spy on all of us in order to keep us safe.
That's a false choice. Not only does the Constitution prohibit that kind of mass unwarranted surveillance, but it's not reasonable to believe that a government preoccupied with its own citizens is focused on legitimate threats to the country.
Privacy, our founders understood, is a basic human and civil right. EFF and the dozens of organizations that have signed onto the 13 principles are only demanding what they had fought and died to bequeath to us. Sources: