Surveillance Is Theft: World's Leading Authors Protest NSA

Abby Zimet

Calling it "a stand for democracy in the digital age," 560 of the world's most renowned writers, including five Nobel prize winners, have signed a petition condemning state surveillance and urging the U.N. to create an international bill of digital rights. The statement by authors from 81 countries, which is being published globally in over 30 newspapers and can be signed by the public, says the surveillance revealed by Edward Snowden violates privacy, compromises freedom of thought and undermines the fundamental right of all humans to remain "unobserved and unmolested."

"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."


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.

Others are invited to sign the petition at

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