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Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, A/HRC/32/38, 11 May 2016

IV. Legal and policy issues

B. Surveillance and digital security

57. Digital communications and data transmitted or stored on private networks and platforms are increasingly subject to surveillance and other forms of interference, whether by the State or private actors. Unnecessary and disproportionate surveillance may undermine security online and access to information and ideas (see A/HRC/23/40). Surveillance may create a chilling effect on the online expression of ordinary citizens, who may self-censor for fear of being constantly tracked. Surveillance exerts a disproportionate impact on the freedom of expression of a wide range of vulnerable groups, including racial, religious, ethnic, gender and sexual minorities, members of certain political parties, civil society, human rights defenders, professionals such as journalists, lawyers and trade unionists, victims of violence and abuse, and children (see A/HRC/29/32). State capacity to conduct surveillance may depend on the extent to which business enterprises cooperate with or resist such surveillance.

V. Further thematic development

Internet governance

80. The outcome of the World Summit on the Information Society demonstrated the continuing broad support for multi-stakeholder governance of the Internet. The existing model nonetheless faces increasing pressure in the form of specific national policies (such as data localization) and strategies such as “cybersovereignty”. Moreover, there is a persistent need to maintain or increase human rights participation at all levels of governance, including the setting of technical standards, and to ensure that Internet governance frameworks and reform efforts are sensitive to the needs of women, sexual minorities and other vulnerable communities.

Link to full text of the report: report-srfoe-auv-2016-eng