Information and communication technologies (ITC) have given a new dimension to privacy. Never before in human history have there been an accumulation of privacy-intrusive technologies, practices and devices as today. The risk is taking the matter lightly: there is the perception that we are all winners by giving away some privacy. But, make no mistake; privacy is not the red herring in the room!

The OISTE Foundation believes that the human right to privacy is as important as the human right to freedom. Deprivation of privacy is deprivation of human dignity and without privacy there is no freedom, especially no freedom of expression.

Civil society organisations have to play a role making sure that the human right to privacy is enforced and respected. Building trust in electronic communications and transactions is the main objective of the OISTE Foundation. Privacy is an essential and necessary condition for trust. Without privacy there is no trust.

The Internet is a formidable surveillance machine. We live at the times of “Surveillance Capitalism”, as Shoshana Zuboff names the fact that our lives, reflected in cyberspace, are plundered for behavioral data for the sake of a system that converts our freedom into profit. We are quietly being domesticated into accepting as normal that decision rights vanish before we even know that there is a decision to make.

A new awareness infused by a human-right based approach that considers each individual “netizen” as a dignified moral being, worth of respect, is required. Otherwise, our connectivity will continue to offer a perverse amalgam of empowerment inextricably layered with diminishment.

For these reasons, the Foundation OISTE, – building upon the various resolutions adopted by the UN General Assembly and the Human Rights Council touching on the protection and promotion of the right to privacy in the digital age – strives to:

  • Identifying and clarifying principles, standards and best practices regarding the promotion and protection of the human right to privacy
  • Reinforcing the principles of non-arbitrariness, lawfulness, legality, necessity and proportionality in communications surveillance by the State
  • Ensuring that profiling, automated decision-making and machine-learning technologies do proceed in accordance to agreed safeguards and do not affect the enjoyment of human rights
  • Introducing a gender perspective and ensuring that there exists effective domestic oversight and remedies for the violation of the human right to privacy
  • Addressing the issue of personal data management: there is an overwhelming abuse; individuals do not provide their free, explicit and informed consent to the re-use, sale or multiple re-sales of their personal data
  • Addressing the issue of human rights impacts of artificial intelligence, with a particular focus on examples of discrimination and bias.

The OISTE Foundation signed The International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance right after they were launched at the 24th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in 2013. OISTE invites other organizations to join: