Writers of the world call for end to mass online surveillance
Roddy Doyle, Colum McCann and Colm Tóibín among 560 signatories to international appeal
Roddy Doyle signed the appeal, which will be carried in 27 newspapers worldwide
Five Nobel literature laureates are among 560 international writers who today have put their names to an appeal, “A stand for democracy in the digital age”, against widespread “mass surveillance” by governments and corporations.
It is, they argue, an attack on “a basic pillar of democracy . . . the inviolable integrity of the individual”.
The appeal, signed by Irish writers Roddy Doyle, Colum McCann and Colm Tóibín, is being carried in 27 newspapers worldwide, including The Irish Times (see below). It calls for the drafting by the UN of an International Bill of Digital Rights and on governments to sign and adhere to such a convention.
“In their thoughts and in their personal environments and communications all humans have the right to remain unobserved and unmolested,” the appeal argues.
“This fundamental human right has been rendered null and void through abuse of technological developments by states and corporations for mass surveillance purposes. 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.”
The appeal comes in the wake of recent revelations by US whistleblower Edward Snowden exposing extensive and intrusive telephone and internet surveillance by the US and its western allies.
It was organised by an independent international group of authors Juli Zeh, Ilija Trojanow, Eva Menasse, Janne Teller, Priya Basil, Isabel Cole, Josef Haslinger – though personal contacts and private networks.
The organisers are inviting others to sign the petition at www.change.org/surveillance.
A stand for democracy in the digital age: International writers’ appeal
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 e-mail, 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.
– WE CALL ON ALL STATES AND CORPORATIONS to respect these rights.
– WE CALL ON ALL CITIZENS to stand up and defend these rights.
– WE CALL ON THE UNITED NATIONS to acknowledge the central importance of protecting civil rights in the digital age and to create an International Bill of Digital Rights.
– WE CALL ON GOVERNMENTS to sign and adhere to such a convention
ALBANIA Anila Wilms. Algeria Boualem Sansal. Angola José Eduardo Agualusa. Argentina Maria Teresa Andruetto, Edgardo Cozarinsky, María Sonia Cristoff, Marcelo Figueras, Carlos Gamerro, Alberto Manguel, Guillermo Martinez, Elsa Osorio, Claudia Piñeiro, Samanta Schweblin.
AUSTRALIA Debra Adelaide, Chris Andrews, Venero Armanno, Larissa Beherendt, James Bradley, Brian Castro, Nick Cave, Miriam Cosic, Michelle de Kretser, Nick Earls, Delia Falconer, Anna Funder, Helen Garner, Elisabeth Holdsworth, Linda Jaivin, Gail Jones, Evelyn Juers, Thomas Keneally, Nam Le, James Ley, Angelo Loukakis, David Malouf, Frank Moorhouse, Peter Rose, Rosie Scott, John Tranter, Kirsten Tranter, Arnold Zable.