STORY: Special Rapporteur on Terrorism – Report launch
TRT: 3 min 02s
SOURCE: UNTV CH
ASPECT RATIO: 16:9
DATELINE: 15 March 2023 GENEVA, SWITZERLAND
“An abject failure to regulate the risks that surveillance technologies pose for every human being on the planet”, UN Special Rapporteur on Terrorism
In a report to the ongoing session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism, Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, warned of an alarming misuse of high-risk technologies in the global fight against terrorism.
This includes drones, biometrics, artificial intelligence (AI) and spyware, which is being ramped up in the ongoing fight against terrorism, without due regard for the rule of law, governance and human rights, she said.
“One of the biggest challenges we see in the increased use of drones for surveillance is that it is ordinary people whose data is being collected, ordinary people who have no right to the information that’s been collected on them and no or little regulation of the use of that data by the State,” said Ms. Ní Aoláin when speaking on Wednesday to media at the United Nations in Geneva.
The Special Rapporteur pointed out that States and private actors are using counter-terrorism and security rhetoric to justify and accelerate the deployment and transfer of new high-risk surveillance technologies without regulation. Exceptional justifications for the use of surveillance technology often turn into mundane regular use, Ms Ní Aoláin said.
“Counter-terrorism are security kind of fears or rationales that are often used as the legal and policy basis to adopt them, meaning States say ‘we have this threat, we need this technology’," Ms. Ní Aoláin said. “Now, when that happens the pattern we see is that States say ‘But we are only going to use this technology in a very limited way to counter this specific kind of threat’. But what we are seeing happening in practice is that that exceptional rationale does last very long.”
The Special Rapporteur added that “this slippage from exceptional use justified by counter-terrorism to regular use for all kinds of purposes – some of them quite nefarious - speaks to the real challenges that we are facing in regulating these technologies and ensuring that they don’t pose risks to the protection of human rights.”
The Human Rights Council-appointed independent expert expressed concern about the growing domestication of the use of drones in several countries, the widespread misuse of spyware technology against civil society groups, dissidents and journalists, and the increasing adoption of biometric data collection.
“There is consistently in the adaption of these new technologies either no or very little human rights, or at best a kind of performative note to human rights”, she said. “But very little mainstreaming of human rights protection into what are essentially high-risk technologies. And the result of that, I think, has been an abject failure to – in a way - regulate the risks that these technologies pose for every human being on the planet.”
The UN expert expressed concern about the growing domestication of the use of drones in several countries. “What we are seeing is that drone technology is proliferating at remarkable speed. In many countries you can pick one up at a store and build it in your backyard”, she said. “The result of that in the context where there is no global regulation of drone technology is a massive gap in human rights protection when such technologies are deployed.”
The expert presented in her report also a new and innovative approach to spyware regulation, focusing on ensuring that minimum human rights standards are applied by both governments and companies in the development but also in the use of high-risk surveillance technologies.
One of Ms. Ní Aoláin recommendations are that “if you are going to collect data, counter terrorism data at national level, you have to have in correspondence national legislation that protects data of the persons whose data is being collected, used, transferred and stored.” She added that “all of us have a right to that as a fundamental human right. It seems to me that in a digital age, we don’t have those rights, we actually loose an enormous space of protection.”