Originally posted 3 July 2013 on the Human Rights Watch website
Edward Snowden’s disclosures about the massive surveillance of communications data by the United States and the United Kingdom point to a serious infringement on the right of privacy. If true, these disclosures indicate that data is being collected about the communications, associations, and movements of millions of ordinary people who aren’t suspected of wrongdoing or considered a threat. This indiscriminate collection of data is intrinsically overbroad and cannot be justified by some future hypothetical usefulness against potential threats to these countries.
The law often criminalizes the disclosure of secrets by employees or agents of a government. But international law recognizes that revealing official secrets is sometimes justified in the public interest. In particular it may be necessary to expose and protect against serious human rights violations, including overreaching or unjustifiable surveillance. International principles on national security whistleblowers outline various circumstances under which governments should protect people from punishment if they disclose information of public concern.