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Surveillance technologies can be important tools for protecting national security and public safety when used responsibly and in a manner consistent with applicable international law.  At the same time, a growing number of governments misuse surveillance technologies to restrict access to information and the exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms.  In some cases, governments use these tools in ways that violate or abuse the right to be free from arbitrary or unlawful interference with one’s privacy.  In the worst cases, governments employ such products or services as part of a broad state apparatus of oppression.

Today, the United States is proud to join over 45 Summit for Democracy participating states in endorsing new Guiding Principles on Government Use of Surveillance Technologies.  These Guiding Principles illustrate how governments can maintain their commitment to respect democratic values and protect human rights in the responsible use of surveillance technology. They were developed by consensus in the Freedom Online Coalition, a group of 36 governments dedicated to protecting the same human rights online as offline, currently chaired by the United States.

The Guiding Principles are intended to prevent the misuse of surveillance technologies by governments to enable human rights abuses in three main areas:

  • The use of Internet controls;
  • Pairing video surveillance with artificial intelligence-driven tools; and
  • The use of big data analytic tools.

Responsible policies and practices in the use of these technologies protect human rights and foster transparency, accountability, and civic participation, while effectively and appropriately pursuing legitimate law enforcement, public safety, and national security objectives.

The 36 members of the Freedom Online Coalition are:  Argentina, Australia, Austria, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Maldives, Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

As part of the second Summit for Democracy, additional governments that endorsed the Guiding Principles are:  Albania, Bulgaria, Colombia, Croatia, Ecuador, Greece, Iceland, Kosovo, Malta, North Macedonia, Slovenia, and Ukraine.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future