Poland: ICJ intervenes before European Court in case of surveillance of lawyers and human rights defenders

Poland: ICJ intervenes before European Court in case of surveillance of lawyers and human rights defenders

The ICJ intervened today in the case of the potential surveillance by Polish secret services of Mikołaj Pietrzak, lawyer and chair of the Warsaw Bar Association, Dominika Bychawska-Siniarska et Barbara Grabowska-Moroz of the Helsinki Foundation of Human Rights, and Wojciech Klicki and Katarzyna Szymielewicz of the foundation Panoptykon.

The five applicants applied to the European Court of Human Rights claiming a violation of their rights to privacy and to an effective remedy because the system of secret surveillance and collection of metadata created by the Law amending the Law of the Police of 15 January 2016 and the Anti-Terrorism Law of 16 June 2016 does not provide sufficient guarantees for this rights’ protection.

In its third party intervention, the ICJ addressed (1) the application of the principles of prescription by law, necessity and proportionality, in circumstances when mass and targeted surveillance interferes with the right to respect for private life under Article 8 ECHR, in particular when it affects lawyers and human rights defenders; (2) the obligations of States under Article 8 and 6 ECHR to ensure respect for the confidentiality of lawyer-client relations and the principle of legal professional privilege.

The ICJ argued that secret surveillance, in particular where it interferes with the confidentiality of communications of lawyers and human rights defenders, and endangers lawyer-client privilege protected under Articles 8 and 6 ECHR, should be subject to specific safeguards and to particularly strict scrutiny of its necessity and proportionality.

The third party intervention can be found here: PIetrzak&HF_v_Poland-AmicusCuriae-ECtHR-Cases-2020-ENG

COVID-19: Use of digital surveillance technologies must be human rights compliant

COVID-19: Use of digital surveillance technologies must be human rights compliant

Today, the ICJ joined more than 100 other organizations to urge States to ensure that any use of digital technologies to track and monitor individuals and populations as part of measures to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic is fully human rights compliant.

The organizations warned that efforts to contain the virus must not be used as a cover to impose greatly expanded systems of invasive digital surveillance that are likely to be abused, unless adequate safeguards are put in place to protect freedom of expression, the right to privacy and other rights.

Technology can and should play an important role in the midst of the current crisis to protect the rights to health, life and security.

Deploying non-consensual State digital surveillance powers however can risk violations of the rights to privacy, freedom of expression, information and association. If implemented in an arbitrary or discriminatory way, and without adequate oversight, these measures risk damaging public trust in state authorities and undermining the effectiveness of any public health response. Non-consensual digital surveillance measures may also disproportionately exacerbate discrimination against already marginalized communities.

The organizations called on all governments to ensure that increased digital surveillance measures meet the following conditions:

  1. Surveillance measures adopted to address the pandemic must be lawful, necessary and proportionate. Governments must be transparent about the measures they are taking so that they can be scrutinized and, if appropriate, later modified, retracted, or overturned.
  2. Expansion of monitoring or surveillance measures must be time-bound, and only continue for as long as necessary to address the current pandemic.
  3. States must ensure that increased collection, retention, and aggregation of personal data, including health data, is only used for the purposes of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Data collected, retained, and aggregated to respond to the pandemic must be limited in scope, time-bound in relation to the pandemic and must not be used for commercial or any other purposes.
  4. Governments must take every effort to protect people’s data, including ensuring sufficient security of any personal data collected and of any devices, applications, networks, or services involved in collection, transmission, processing, and storage. Any claims that data is anonymous must be based on evidence and supported with sufficient information regarding how it has been anonymized.
  5. Any use of digital surveillance technologies in responding to COVID-19, including big data and artificial intelligence systems, must address the risk that these tools will facilitate discrimination and other rights abuses against racial minorities, people living in poverty, and other marginalized populations, whose needs and lived realities may be obscured or misrepresented in large datasets.
  6. If governments enter into data sharing agreements with other public or private sector entities, they must be based on law, and the existence of these agreements and information necessary to assess their impact on privacy and human rights must be publicly disclosed – in writing, with sunset clauses, public oversight and other safeguards by default. Businesses involved in efforts by governments to tackle COVID-19 must undertake due diligence to ensure they respect human rights, and ensure any intervention is firewalled from other business and commercial interests.
  7. Any response must incorporate accountability protections and safeguards against abuse. Increased surveillance efforts related to COVID-19 should not fall under the domain of security or intelligence agencies and must be subject to effective oversight by appropriate independent bodies. Individuals must be given the opportunity to know about and challenge any COVID-19 related measures to collect, aggregate, and retain, and use data.
  8. COVID-19 related responses that include data collection efforts should include means for free, active, and meaningful participation of relevant stakeholders, in particular experts in the public health sector and marginalized population groups.

Link to joint statement here.

See also

ICJ, ‘Southeast Asia: States must respect and protect rights in combating misinformation online relating to COVID-19’, 1 April 2020

Privacy & Surveillance: NGO checklist of qualifications for new UN expert

Privacy & Surveillance: NGO checklist of qualifications for new UN expert

The ICJ and other leading human rights NGOs today publish a checklist of qualifications for use in the ongoing selection of a new UN expert on the right to privacy.

The UN is accepting applications for the newly-created Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy, to be appointed at the June session of the Human Rights Council. The deadline for receipt of nominations is 30 April 2015.

The checklist was developed together with Access, the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International, Article 19, the Association for Progressive Communications, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Privacy International. These NGOs, with the support of dozens of other civil society organisations from around the world, advocated for and strongly supported the establishment of the Special Rapporteur mandate at the March session of the Human Rights Council.

This checklist is intended to support governments, NGOs, academics, relevant professional networks, national human rights institutions and others in the identification of and outreach to highly qualified and independent candidates.

The checklist can be downloaded in PDF format here: HRC29-CriteriaSRPrivacy-Advocacy-2015

The application and selection process is explained on the website of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, here.

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