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UN Votes To Protect Privacy In Digital Age 124

Posted by timothy
from the that-and-five-bucks-gets-you-a-latte dept.
First time accepted submitter jma05 writes "The UN General Assembly unanimously adopted a privacy resolution introduced by Brazil and Germany, against unlawful surveillance. 'The resolution affirms that the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, including the right to privacy.' Under pressure from US lobbying, the clause that mass surveillance constitutes a human rights violation was dropped earlier."
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UN Votes To Protect Privacy In Digital Age

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  • And how is (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rossdee (243626) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @01:06PM (#45738165)

    the UN going to protect anybodys privacy?

    • by Spy Handler (822350) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @01:09PM (#45738191) Homepage Journal

      sanctions.

      • by SirGarlon (845873)

        Don't laugh. If the sleeping giant we call the UN General Assembly were to awaken and get angry, woe betide the country on whom its wrath should fall. Unlike the Security Council, there is no veto in the General Assembly, so one or a handful of countries could not stop the hammer of sanctions from coming down.

        I have long thought my country (US) needs a large dose of humility in international affairs, but I would much rather it acquire that humility by gentler means than meaningful economic sanctions.

        • Re:And how is (Score:5, Insightful)

          by qbzzt (11136) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @01:33PM (#45738415)

          Woe, in this case, is a non-binding resolution to stop trading with the US. Countries that benefit from trade with the US will mostly either defy that decision, or claim to obey it while doing it under the table.

          The UN is not a government and it does not have an enforcement mechanism (UN troops are national troops loaned to the UN). It is a debating society.

          • by SirGarlon (845873)

            Countries that benefit from trade with the US will mostly either defy that decision, or claim to obey it while doing it under the table.

            Sure, self-interest applies, but it is not necessarily that simple. The United States, or, rather, its corporate citizens, benefited from trade with South Africa, but they eventually sided with the divestment movement [wikipedia.org] and hit South Africa where it hurt.

            I don't claim it's a likely outcome, but if my government keeps behaving like a bully, there has to be some major blowback

            • The United States, or, rather, its corporate citizens, benefited from trade with South Africa, but they eventually sided with the divestment movement [wikipedia.org] and hit South Africa where it hurt.

              I don't claim it's a likely outcome, but if my government keeps behaving like a bully, there has to be some major blowback eventually.

              From the wikipedia article it shows that this was primarily backed by religious people in the US and not the politicians of the time in government. Today South Africa has a policy of Black Economic Empowerment [wikipedia.org] which is essentially a tit-for-tat policy that further puts into law race differences and somehow benefits a "Chinese" looking person who may come into the country fresh today over a local "white person" who is being "reverse discriminated" against. [youtube.com] Whilst not as bad as Zimbabwe's policies, the sentim

              • by Pav (4298)
                The problem IM(not well enough uninformed)HO is that decent leadership was too thin after Nelson Mandela. Desmond Tutu is at least a moral compass calling out some of the unwarranted sidelining of white South Africans, the corruption etc... as well as the Robert Mugabes of this world. The new South African project needed inspired leadership for a generation or two, but it didn't even get one. It did get the best start though given the situation. Hopefully as the electorate becomes more educated the raci
          • by Chalnoth (1334923)

            Well, the UN is a bit more than a debating society. It is a place for nations around the world to sit down and talk. That capacity alone is quite important.

            No, UN resolutions aren't binding. But they are a reflection of what governments around the world believe they should be seen supporting. This is a sign, in short, that the argument that governments should not engage in broad surveillance of citizens is being one ideologically. This doesn't stop any such surveillance, but it may be a step along the

            • by TheCarp (96830)

              > No, UN resolutions aren't binding. But they are a reflection of what governments around the world
              > believe they should be seen supporting.

              As opposed, of course, to what they believe they should actually support :)

              Kind of like the Yemeni and other officials who work behind the scenes with American intelligence while running for office under the banner of hating America?

            • by icebike (68054)

              Well, the UN is a bit more than a debating society. It is a place for nations around the world to sit down and talk. That capacity alone is quite important.

              My gawd, haven't the events since 1945 taken the bloom off of that rose yet?
              How many generations of failure does it take for the naive to wake from their slumber among the unicorns and fairy and realize that the UN is useless?

              Sit down and talk? Really? How old are you, 12?

              Nations don't "sit down and talk". Leaders of nations pick up the phone, or dial up the video conference when ever they need it.
              Far from a sit down it had become mostly a place to grand stand. No new understanding is achieved between co

              • This is reminiscent of how bills in Congress are really decided in committee, with the floor speeches just meant to impress the suckers back home.

              • by KlomDark (6370)

                So, Mr Complainer, got a better idea?

              • Re:And how is (Score:5, Insightful)

                by TapeCutter (624760) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @05:38PM (#45741159) Journal

                nothing of importance is handled by the UN.

                The UN eradicated smallpox and are very close to eradicating polio, if they did nothing else all the bluster and bullshit will have been worth it. If you expect them eradicate the people you personally view as tyrants and warmongers, you will be bitterly disappointed.

                Sit down and talk? Really? How old are you, 12?

                I'm in my 50's, in my experience it's the adults/nations who stamp their feet and won't talk who are generally perceived as immature. There's a strong meme in the US that only "good nations" should have a seat at the UN, it's a meme that displays a complete lack of understanding as to why the UN was formed in the first place. Also, if you believe in the US ideal of free speech you will defend ImADinnerJacket's inalienable right to stand on the podium and spew his bile to the world, nobody is forcing you to listen, which is why ImADinnerJacket is normally talking to empty seats.

            • Re:And how is (Score:5, Informative)

              by Smauler (915644) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @03:32PM (#45739777)

              No, UN resolutions aren't binding. But they are a reflection of what governments around the world believe they should be seen supporting.

              You mean like the International Criminal Court [wikipedia.org], which was founded 11 years ago? The US is the only western country not to accept the ICC. Everyone around the world thinks this is odd.

              • Re:And how is (Score:5, Insightful)

                by Chalnoth (1334923) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @04:24PM (#45740317)
                I'd be quite surprised if the rest of the world thinks it's odd. The US is actively involved in numerous war crimes, and has been for a number of years. It's despicable.
              • The US is the only western country not to accept the ICC. Everyone around the world thinks this is odd.

                Looking at the map [wikipedia.org], it appears to me that your latter statement is a bit overstated, since it's basically just South America and Europe wholly on board, while most of Oceania has outright rejected it, as has most of Asia (mind you, I'm not making a moral judgment one way or the other with that statement, just addressing an issue of facts). None of the world's superpowers have ratified it, in fact, and there's nothing particularly surprising or odd about that, since it makes perfect sense that they wouldn't

                • by Smauler (915644)

                  All of the conventional "Western" states have ratified it, that was what I was referring to the rest of the world looking at as a bit odd. It's obviously far from odd that places with dodgy or corrupt regimes and those not as subject to the rule of law have not ratified the treaty. Oceania is not considered "western", except for Aus/NZ, which have ratified it.

                  The EU is a superpower, too, by any definition, and is more than cohesive enough to act as an entity.

              • by Quila (201335)

                The ICC violates three constitutional rights: the right to trial by a jury of one's peers, the right to confront one's accusers, and the protection from double jeopardy. I don't think there is even any provision for bail.

                Others may think it's odd because we have a higher protection of rights than they do (certain recognized abuses we're fighting notwithstanding). It's like how Islamic countries think it's odd that we are free to ridicule Mohammed, or how European countries think it's odd that American Nazis

        • Don't laugh. If the sleeping giant we call the UN General Assembly were to awaken and get angry,

          Absolutely nothing would happen. Because the General Assembly doesn't have the power to vote on anything stronger than making an unhappy face. It takes the Security Council to do anything real.

      • World citizens: Is there someone else up there we can talk to?
        UN: No, now go away or I shall taunt you a second time!

      • ...and if they're feeling particularly angry ... resolutions!

      • by FunkDup (995643)

        how is the UN going to protect anybodys privacy?

        with the cunning use of words

    • by Anonymous Coward

      They won't protect our privacy which is fine by me. Any UN powerful enough to protect our privacy would be powerful enough to take it away. That would be much worse than having one nation violate your rights. At least when one nation violates your rights you have the option of fleeing. If a world government violated your rights, that option would be taken away. Given the power sufficient to protect privacy or take it away, what do you think such a powerful UN would do?

    • by ackthpt (218170)

      the UN going to protect anybodys privacy?

      The real question is, does anyone pay any attention to what the UN says about anything?

      I bet the UN is so widely ignored nobody on /. can remember what the last resolution was about (I certainly don't.)

    • by TheSpoom (715771)

      Spies.

    • People should consider hard the opinion that "the UN is meaningless because it can't enforce anything".

      The point of the UN is that there is an open forum where countries can debate issues relevant to the world in good faith. The same principle applies to political debates in the USA. No one is enforcing what is promised in political debates, yet they are still meaningful. The day debate become meaningless because nothing is "enforced" is the same day that raw force is what a society is being governed by, ra

    • by Greyfox (87712)
      They will send us a sternly worded note stating that we really should pay attention to their... *yawn*.... sorry...
  • by JoeyRox (2711699) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @01:09PM (#45738197)
    I mean, who wants the all-powerful UN coming after them, especially when the UN's largest financial contributor is the USA.
    • by buchner.johannes (1139593) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @01:31PM (#45738399) Homepage Journal

      US only contributes 22%. Europe pays more. Get your facts straight. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_nations#Funding [wikipedia.org]

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Moheeheeko (1682914)
        I find it funny that people have to compare a continent to a country to make the US look less important.
        • I am not comparing a continent to a country, but equal shares of the worlds population (and in this case, also equal amounts of GDP). GGP made it sound like the US runs the UN, but no matter how you dice the population of the world, they are not, nor is any other major block.

          • Except in this case population doesnt mean jack. The largest contribution from a single entity comes form the US, and as the AC demonstrates below, it takes a Dozen from europe to even match that. Just because you and 8 of your friends can cover half of the lunch bill doesnt make the one guy who covers the other half less important, keep moving those goalpost though.
          • I am not comparing a continent to a country

            US only contributes 22%. Europe pays more.

            DOH!

        • The EU has 27 states and 500M people, the US has 50 states and 300M people. Germany and California have comparable economies, Nato and the Pentagon serve similar roles, etc. Aside from that, calculations of who contributes what to the UN should really be done on a per capita basis before you start trying to compare large federations to each other.
      • by ComputerGeek01 (1182793) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @01:42PM (#45738497)
        Europe is not a country, they like to pretend to be one entity when comparing themselves to the US. But one mention of something like a fiscal policy or paying off debt in a realistic manner and they break apart faster then the US congress on an election year.
        • by Anonymous Coward

          But one mention of something like a fiscal policy or paying off debt in a realistic manner and they break apart faster then the US congress on an election year.

          Um.. If you mention fiscal policy or paying off debt in a realistic manner the US breaks apart equally fast.

      • by Tihstae (86842)

        Comparing a country to a continent is only valid if Australia is involved.

        Your comparison is ridiculous. To use a car analogy, since every comparison should have an equal car analogy, you are comparing engines to cupholders and thinking that people won't see through your idiocy.

      • US only contributes 22%. Europe pays more.

        "Europe" pays nothing. EU dues to the UN are precisely zero--the EU doesn't even have a seat in the General Assembly! Talking about how much "Europe" pays makes as much much sense as adding together China, Korea, India and Japan and talking about how much "Asia" pays.

      • US only contributes 22%.

        The US "only" contributes 22% of the UN budget? Not only is that more than double what the next country contributes (and more than 3x what the top European country contributes), but 22% is also the maximum allowed for a contribution for the period of 2013-2015 (the minimum is 0.001%). The US is at the max, we can't contribute any more, sorry. Maybe all of Europe can step up and help out a little more to lower our $618 million bill. Here is the document [un.org] that lists the actual contributions from each count

      • Wrong on all parts.
        The majority of countries in the European continent COMBINED pay more than the US in direct monetary contribution. The US just so happens to provide an on demand military force for the UN, paid for by the US taxpayer. The US also just so happens to pay for 'round the clock security and upkeep for the building in NYC, which costs a few hundred thousand dollars PER DAY when they're NOT IN SESSION. It's over a million when they are. In reality the US taxpayers pay for nearly half of the UNs
        • The US just so happens to provide an on demand military force for the UN, paid for by the US taxpayer.

          So do other countries. They contribute Blue Berets soldiers just as the US does.

          The US also just so happens to pay for 'round the clock security and upkeep for the building in NYC, which costs a few hundred thousand dollars PER DAY when they're NOT IN SESSION.

          You seem to think there is only one major UN building in the world.

      • A few comments:
        1) While the EU does pay more collectively, the US "only" pays 22% of the UN's total budget because it's not allowed to pay more. The UN has policies in place to prohibit itself from becoming too reliant on any one member state, one of which is that contributions from a single member are capped at 22%. The US actually used to pay more than that, but the cap was lowered from 25% a few years back.

        2) The member states do not decide how much they contribute. Rather, the UN assesses them their fee

    • by msobkow (48369)

      Yep. After all, they're so obedient to the laws of the US itself already...

  • ...for burritos every night. Doesn't mean anyone gets them for me.
  • From TFA:

    General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding but they do reflect world opinion and carry political weight.

    And this is more to protect foreign nations' leaders against US spying, not citizens.

  • USA voted for this (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ZombieBraintrust (1685608) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @01:18PM (#45738283)

    The UN General Assembly unanimously adopted a privacy resolution

    That means USA voted for it. It also means countries that you would not normally associate with a right to privacy voted for it. Basically it was watered down enough that no one opposed it.

    • by Chelloveck (14643) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @01:55PM (#45738629) Homepage

      That means USA voted for it. It also means countries that you would not normally associate with a right to privacy voted for it. Basically it was watered down enough that no one opposed it.

      My guess is that the magic word is "unlawful". Sure, the US opposes unlawful surveillance. That's why we've made it perfectly legal for the government to poke it's nose into anywhere, at any time. No unlawful surveillance here, nope!

      Tautology cat is tautological.

  • Meaningless posturing. The UN is utterly powerless against the NSA and its whims. This resolution carries about as much weight as a post on Slashdot critisizing it.
  • Unanimous at the UN = Meaningless. Doubtful it even has gums, let alone any teeth.
  • Will this work as well as all the other UN Votes? Doubtful. But then the others rarely work either.

  • I am impressed... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Thursday December 19, 2013 @02:09PM (#45738781)

    The UN has just voted against "unlawful surveillance"...

    Which, being unlawful, is already illegal everywhere (pretty much by definition, really).

    So they've voted for the status quo to remain the status quo.

    • Are you implying that this was all just useless posturing for the sake of seeming like they're addressing a problem while really not doing anything about it at all? Say it isn't so!

  • Used to be that military actions took place at the nation vs. nation level and the individual citizens were just along for the ride (whether they wanted to be or not). So, one country would spy on another COUNTRY, intercept the other country's communications, etc. Other than stuff that was military related, commercial and private communications weren't really of interest to national intelligence.

    Fast forward to now and you have private citizens taking violent action against countries they disagree with.

  • From TFS: "Under pressure from US lobbying, the clause that mass surveillance constitutes a human rights violation was dropped earlier."

    No way in hell was the Land of the Free going to vote for a resolution, toothless as it is, that would in any way encumber or inhibit Big Brother and Big Data.

    This is, of course, essential to maintain the facade of legality and ethics the United Police States have to maintain as part of the whole scam.

  • "Under pressure from US lobbying, the clause that mass surveillance constitutes a human rights violation was dropped earlier."

    WTF is this shit from the so-called "Land of the free and the home of the brave"? Not US lobbying, let's call it what it is: Corporate lobbying. Sickening to see my country dying under my feet. Everything my parents told me about Russia being bad when I was growing up is instead coming true here. Damn Damn Damn... Where's that flux capacitor when I need one?

    • by fnj (64210)

      Colonel Otto Heidemann: Herr General, I see now, I have notions of honor which are outdated.
      General Count von Klugermann: They're not outdated!
      [looks at inexpedient incriminating evidence he is holding in his hand]
      Klugermann: Stored. With care, and love, for better times.
      [hands evidence back to Heidemann]

      Look to better times. And strive to bring them about. Until then, resist, even if only in your thoughts. No one can ever take your thoughts away.

  • When both Canada (CSE) and the US (NSA) spy on everyone around the world, including their own citizens in their own countries, against their own Constitutions, how can this mean anything?

    Or did you not notice the cables being cut and spliced when we did it?

  • It may not be binding or carry much weight, but at least a voice is speaking up.

    I for one am sickened by how the internet is being used for surveillance.
    I'm appalled that I played a part in building this beast.

    Perhaps we should tear it all down and start over.
  • by Tom (822)

    What a laugh.

    Our current (new) government wants to re-introduce the so-called "Vorratsdatenspeicherung" - the storage of all phone, SMS and Internet meta-data of everyone for no reason at all, just so they have that data (going back half a year!) in case they ever think it might help them catch a criminal.

    You're guilty until proven innocent.

  • Seriously, is the UN even relevant anymore?
  • Can UN do anything about it if it was not respected? No they can',t so they should stop bullshitting people. UN is something that just meant for bureaucrats to get themselves fat and stuffed with donation money. Or for rich kids to join in so as they can feel they are doing something right in the world.

    UN is dead, there's nothing to actually "save the world" anymore.

    In Mauritius privacy laws, data protection agreement were just blatantly pissed up on, no one could do anything about it, because politi

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