Human rights treaties and foreign surveillance: Privacy in the digital age

Event date: 
18 Aug 2014
1:00pm to 2:00pm
Venue: 
Staff common room, level 2, UNSW Law
Topic: 
Privacy and human rights
Speaker: 
Marko Milanovic
Position: 
Nottingham University
Cost: 
Free
Enquiries: 
Any questions? Call us on 9385 1803

The 2013 revelations by Edward Snowden of the scope and magnitude of electronic surveillance programs run by the US National Security Agency (NSA) and some of its partners, including UK and Australian signals intelligence agencies, have provoked intense and ongoing public debate regarding the proper limits of such intelligence activities. Privacy activists decry such programs, especially those involving the mass collection of the data or communications of ordinary individuals across the globe, arguing that they create an inhibiting surveillance climate that diminishes basic freedoms, while government officials justify them as being necessary for the prevention of terrorism.

This talk will look at how the legality of such programs would be debated and assessed within the framework of international human rights law, and specifically under the major human rights treaties to which the ‘Five Eyes’ and other states with sophisticated technological capabilities are parties. In the wake of the UN General Assembly's 2013 resolution on the right to privacy in the digital age, it can be expected that electronic surveillance and related activities will remain on the agenda of UN bodies for years to come, especially since the political relevance of the topic shows no signs of abating. Similarly, cases challenging surveillance on human rights grounds are already pending before domestic and international courts. The discussion has just started, and it will continue at least partly in human rights terms, focusing on the rights and interests of the affected individuals, rather than solely on the interests and sovereignty of states.

Dr Marko Milanovic is lecturer in law at the University of Nottingham School of Law. He obtained his first degree in law from the University of Belgrade Faculty of Law, his LL.M from the University of Michigan Law School, and his PhD in international law from the University of Cambridge; his PhD thesis was on the extraterritorial application of human rights treaties was awarded the Yorke Prize by the Cambridge Faculty of Law. Marko is Secretary-General and member of the Executive Board of the European Society of International Law, an Associate of the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights, and co-editor of EJIL: Talk!, the blog of the European Journal of International Law, as well as a member of the EJIL's Editorial Board. He was Law Clerk to Judge Thomas Buergenthal of the International Court of Justice in 2006/2007.