Unnecessary And Disproportionate: How The NSA Violates International Human Rights Standards

David Greene and Katitza Rodriguez | Electronic Frontier Foundation | May 28, 2014

Even before Ed Snowden leaked his first document, human rights lawyers and activists were concerned about law enforcement and intelligence agencies spying on the digital world. One of the tools developed to tackle those concerns was the development of the International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance (the “Necessary and Proportionate Principles”). 

This set of principles was intended to guide governments in understanding how new surveillance technologies eat away at fundamental freedoms, and outlined how communications surveillance can be conducted consistent with human rights obligations.  Furthermore, the Necessary and Proportionate Principles act as a resource for citizens—used to compare new tools of state surveillance to global expectations of privacy and due process.

We are now able to look at how the NSA’s mass surveillance programs, which we have learned about in the past year, fare when compared to the Necessary and Proportionate Principles. As you might expect, the NSA programs do not fare well. To mark the first anniversary of the Snowden disclosures, we are releasing Unnecessary and Disproportionate, which details how some of the NSA spying operations violate both human rights standards and the Necessary and Proportionate Principles...