SYDNEY – The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, warned on Wednesday that governments were using new technologies to violate privacy of rights defenders and the civil society.
“In some countries, massive surveillance of the public is becoming the norm, violating the right to privacy as well as enabling the violation of numerous other rights,” Bachelet, the former president of Chile, said in a speech in Sydney.
Without directly mentioning any country, Bachelet said new tools such as facial recognition, used for monitoring citizens, increase pressure on free exercise of human rights.
The high commissioner also highlighted the use of social networks for spreading messages of hate, citing the example of the attack on two mosques in New Zealand, in which the attacker live-streamed the massacre.
She said the attack was followed by demands for increased regulation of social media for preventing the circulation of violence and hate, but also stressed the need of such legal reforms not violating other rights.
“We must keep in mind that any regulations which change how Internet platforms operate and what they display will affect billions of people (...) In particular their rights to speak, associate and assemble freely. Ill-considered regulation risks removing the space for many forms of legitimate expression,” Bachelet said.
The commissioner urged Australia to participate in the efforts to prevent the climate emergency, reminding the oceanic country – one of the biggest polluters in the world due to its exports of fossil fuel – about the heatwaves, droughts and wildfires that have affected the region recently.
“The future of today’s young people will be conditioned by the climate policies that are adopted by leaders now. Will we respond with a denial of the inconvenient, unfortunate, but very visible truth of what is happening?” She asked.
Bachelet also flagged the resurgence of nationalism accompanied by outspoken racism, discrimination and xenophobia, warning that this trend could influence public policy with “dangerous and disturbing consequences.”
The commissioner expressed concern over the Australian policy of mandatory and prolonged detention of asylum seekers who try to reach the country through the sea and “discriminatory attitudes” against such people, especially those who follow Islam.