Five Hundred Writers Call for A Bill of Digital Rights

From Tom Stoppard to Eva Manasse writers around the world have called for an end of Internet spying. Following is their petition to the United Nations.

In recent months, the extent of mass surveillance has become common knowledge. With a few clicks of the mouse the state can access your mobile device, your email, your social networking and internet searches. It can follow your political leanings and activities and, in partnership with internet corporations, it collects and stores your data, and thus can predict your consumption and behaviour.

The basic pillar of democracy is the inviolable integrity of the individual. Human integrity extends beyond the physical body. In their thoughts and in their personal environments and communications, all humans have the right to remain unobserved and unmolested.

This fundamental human right has been rendered null and void through abuse of technological developments by states and corporations for mass surveillance purposes.

A person under surveillance is no longer free; a society under surveillance is no longer a democracy. To maintain any validity, our democratic rights must apply in virtual as in real space.

* Surveillance violates the private sphere and compromises freedom of thought and opinion.

* Mass surveillance treats every citizen as a potential suspect. It overturns one of our historical triumphs, the presumption of innocence.

* Surveillance makes the individual transparent, while the state and the corporation operate in secret. As we have seen, this power is being systemically abused.

* Surveillance is theft. This data is not public property: it belongs to us. When it is used to predict our behaviour, we are robbed of something else: the principle of free will crucial to democratic liberty.

WE DEMAND THE RIGHT for all people to determine, as democratic citizens, to what extent their personal data may be legally collected, stored and processed, and by whom; to obtain information on where their data is stored and how it is being used; to obtain the deletion of their data if it has been illegally collected and stored.


Whether their voices will echo in Canada or America remains to be seen. They have echoed in England and elsewhere.  But powerful voices in England are already accusing
The Guardian as a dangerous and treasonous enemy.  Freedom of the press now walks the razor’s edge everywhere.  Freedom to protest is under attack.  Any effort to call power to account will be instantly smothered.  Already, who is and who is not a terrorist is evolving to include those who may only be peacefully protesting. Protesting the Pipeline?  Protesting Walmart’s pay scale?  Protesting trade agreements that give unlimited rights to corporations? Maybe you want to march in front of a bank?  Be careful.

So far, economists have rarely raised their voices in dissent. Typical Democrats, more interested in political victory than in real democracy, jump to Obama’s defense.

Obama is a child eager to please those around him, quick to protect his flank, eagerly pursuing whistleblowers. He called for a debate. What has he delivered? Cameron I understand. He believes he belongs to an entitled class. Stephen Harper I understand. He believes in unrestrained capitalism.

But Obama? He was the darling liberal who once seemed to speak intelligently about the issues confronting us. How quick he has been to demonstrated his credentials to the powers that hide in the dark. Does he want his presidency to be remembered as the time democracy ended? Already the U.S. has been stained by its approval of torture, of rendition, of Guantanamo, of the destruction of Iraq.

What about that conversation, Mr. President?

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