Demand an End to Mass Surveillance: Support the People’s Principles

In 2013, we learned digital surveillance by world governments knows no bounds. Their national intelligence and other investigative agencies can capture our phone calls, track our location, peer into our address books, and read our emails. They do this often in secret, without adequate public oversight, and in violation of our human rights.

We won’t stand for this anymore. 


Over the past year, nearly 300 organizations have come together to support the International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance. These thirteen Principles establish a clear set of guidelines that establish the human rights obligations of governments engaged in communications surveillance.

Several of the civil society organizations behind these Principles have come together today to launch an Action Center to enable people around the world to lend their name and support to the Principles. We will deliver this petition of signatures to the United Nations, world leaders, and other policymakers who need to hear the voice of the people demanding an end to mass surveillance.


These Principles were developed through months of consultation with technology, privacy, and human rights experts from around the world, and have the backing of hundreds of organizations from around the globe. But today, these Principles are about to receive their most important endorsement: the people’s.


The Principles make clear:

1. States must recognize that mass surveillance threatens the human right to privacy, freedom of expression, and association, and they must place these Principles at the heart of their communications surveillance legal frameworks.

2. States must commit to ensuring that advances in technology do not lead to disproportionate increases in the State’s capacity to interfere with the private lives of individuals.

3. Transparency and rigorous adversarial oversight is needed to ensure changes in surveillance activities benefit from public debate and judicial scrutiny, this includes effective protections for whistleblowers.

4. Just as modern surveillance transcends borders, so must privacy protections.


The organizations behind the Action Center include Access, Chaos Computer Club, Center for Internet & Society-India, Center for Technology and Society at Fundação Getulio Vargas, Digitale Gesellschaft, Digital Courage, Electronic Frontier Foundation,, Open Rights Group, Fundacion Karisma, Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy & Public Interest Clinic, SHARE Foundation and Privacy International. Your signatures will be kept in accordance with our privacy policies.

Support the principles by adding your signature, and encouraging those around you to do the same.




Limits on the right to privacy must be set out clearly and precisely in laws, and should be regularly reviewed to make sure privacy protections keep up with rapid technological changes.


Communications surveillance should only be permitted in pursuit of the most important state objectives.


The State has the obligation to prove that its communications surveillance activities are necessary to achieving a legitimate objective.


A communications surveillance mechanism must be effective in achieving its legitimate objective.


Communications surveillance should be regarded as a highly intrusive act that interferes with the rights to privacy and freedom of opinion and expression, threatening the foundations of a democratic society. Proportionate communications surveillance will typically require prior authorization from a competent judicial authority.


Determinations related to communications surveillance must be made by a competent judicial authority that is impartial and independent.


Due process requires that any interference with human rights is governed by lawful procedures which are publicly available and applied consistently in a fair and public hearing.


Individuals should be notified of a decision authorising surveillance of their communications and be provided an opportunity to challenge such surveillance before it occurs, except in certain exceptional circumstances.


The government has an obligation to make enough information publicly available so that the general public can understand the scope and nature of its surveillance activities. The government should not generally prevent service providers from publishing details on the scope and nature of their own surveillance-related dealings with State.


States should establish independent oversight mechanisms to ensure transparency and accountability of communications surveillance. Oversight mechanisms should have the authority to access all potentially relevant information about State actions.


Service providers or hardware or software vendors should not be compelled to build surveillance capabilities or backdoors into their systems or to collect or retain particular information purely for State surveillance purposes.


On occasion, States may seek assistance from foreign service providers to conduct surveillance. This must be governed by clear and public agreements that ensure the most privacy-protective standard applicable is relied upon in each instance.


There should be civil and criminal penalties imposed on any party responsible for illegal electronic surveillance and those affected by surveillance must have access to legal mechanisms necessary for effective redress. Strong protection should also be afforded to whistleblowers who expose surveillance activities that threaten human rights.