UN Privacy Office Seeks Global Data Warrant Standard

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By George Lynch

The United Nations should pursue an international treaty setting a single warrant standard for government access to customer data held by digital companies, the top privacy official for the U.N. reported March 8.

A treaty is necessary in light of the proliferation of government surveillance laws across the globe, U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Right to Privacy Joseph Cannataci said in the report.Tech companies, such as Microsoft Corp., Alphabet Inc.'s Google, Apple Inc., Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc., are put in a difficult position by the thousands of requests for data from governments they receive every year, he said. Dealing with the variety of national standards governing the requests has a potentially negative effect on the competitiveness of such companies, the report said.

Multinational companies that operate data centers would benefit from an international convention that is able to grant an international surveillance warrant or international data access warrant, the report said. A warrant issued by independent international judges would operate under a clear global reasonable suspicion standard rather than state-issued warrants that may be overstepping legal boundaries, the report concluded.

National populist movements around the world routinely stoke public fear of terrorism to justify expanded surveillance and data access powers, Cannataci said in a statement. “I am deeply concerned that the right to privacy will simply not experience a full transition to the digital age. In general, laws have been drafted and rushed through the legislative process of States with clear political majorities to legitimize practices that should never have been implemented,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: George Lynch in Washington at gLynch@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Donald Aplin at daplin@bna.com

For More Information

The report is available at http://src.bna.com/mOf.

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