IFLA has become a signatory to the International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance.

The Principles document is the product of a year-long negotiation process between Privacy International, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Access, Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders, and the Association for Progressive Communications. The document spells out how existing human rights law applies to modern digital surveillance and gives civil society groups, industry,  lawmakers and observers a benchmark for measuring states' surveillance practices against long-established human rights standards. It contains 13 principles which have now been endorsed by over 260 organizations from 77 countries, from Somalia to Sweden.

IFLA is working on library privacy issues as part of its Key Initiative 1 activities, and during 2014 the FAIFE Committee will be working with the American Library Association, CILIP and other partners to reflect on and revise IFLA’s existing policies, such as the IFLA Internet Manifesto. As recently discussed at the Internet Governance Forum in Bali, this year’s revelations of government surveillance is creating a new environment for the discussion of human rights online. The library community must be prepared to engage in this discussion and ensure that fundamental library principles are upheld when we provide Internet access to our users.

The Principles are available for signing by interested library associations and institutions. More information and the full version of the Principles can be found here: https://en.necessaryandproportionate.org/text

Summary of the 13 principles

  • Legality: Any limitation on the right to privacy must be prescribed by law.
  • Legitimate Aim: Laws should only permit communications surveillance by specified State authorities to achieve a legitimate aim that corresponds to a predominantly important legal interest that is necessary in a democratic society.
  • Necessity: Laws permitting communications surveillance by the State must limit surveillance to that which is strictly and demonstrably necessary to achieve a legitimate aim.
  • Adequacy: Any instance of communications surveillance authorised by law must be appropriate to fulfill the specific legitimate aim identified.
  • Proportionality: Decisions about communications surveillance must be made by weighing the benefit sought to be achieved against the harm that would be caused to users’ rights and to other competing interests.
  • Competent judicial authority: Determinations related to communications surveillance must be made by a competent judicial authority that is impartial and independent.
  • Due process: States must respect and guarantee individuals' human rights by ensuring that lawful procedures that govern any interference with human rights are properly enumerated in law, consistently practiced, and available to the general public.
  • User notification: Individuals should be notified of a decision authorising communications surveillance with enough time and information to enable them to appeal the decision, and should have access to the materials presented in support of the application for authorisation.
  • Transparency: States should be transparent about the use and scope of communications surveillance techniques and powers.
  • Public oversight: States should establish independent oversight mechanisms to ensure transparency and accountability of communications surveillance.
  • Integrity of communications and systems: States should not compel service providers, or hardware or software vendors to build surveillance or monitoring capabilities into their systems, or to collect or retain information.
  • Safeguards for international cooperation: Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLATs) entered into by States should ensure that, where the laws of more than one State could apply to communications surveillance, the available standard with the higher level of protection for users should apply.
  • Safeguards against illegitimate access: States should enact legislation criminalising illegal communications surveillance by public and private actors.