World's leading authors join surveillance of personal data debate
ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News
The signatories included Turkish Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk, as well as global literary stars such as Margaret Atwood and Günter Grass. DHA photoOver 500 of the world’s leading authors released an open letter on Dec. 10 calling on governments to curb mass surveillance methods and respect the civil rights of citizens, tech giants including Apple and Facebook made a similar plea.
The letter, signed by 562 authors from over 80 countries, was published in 30 newspapers around the world on the International Human Rights Day. The signatories included Turkish Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk, as well as global literary stars such as Margaret Atwood and Günter Grass.
A “fundamental human right” has been taken away by mass surveillance and data abuse, the letter said, adding that “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,” the letter read.
The world renowned authors, including five Nobel winners, called surveillance “theft” since private data could not be seen as “public property.” The collecting of data made the individual transparent, the letter added, while the state remained in secret.
“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,” the statement said.
The authors called on governments to respect these rights, and for citizens to stand up to protect them, while asking the United Nations to acknowledge the importance of “protecting civil rights in the digital age” and to create an “International Bill of Digital Rights.”
Surveillance methods used by the United States government have come into question ever since the leaking of confidential National Security Agency documents by the agency’s former analyst Edward Snowden.
The U.S. government has collected data from millions of mobile phones, as well as tapping into the data storage of global firms, including Google and Yahoo. Technical companies had released a similar statement on Dec. 9, which called for the U.S. government to reform its law on surveillance in order to restore the users’ trust in digital tools.