Here are some excerpts from the Electronic Frontier Foundation from people who have written and studied privacy law, including around online and international information. These are succinct quotes that discuss the tension between human rights and national security as it relates to the NSA and recent reforms proposed by Obama in the wake of damaging revelations by Snowden.
Cindy Cohn, Legal Director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation:
"Mass non-targeted surveillance violates international human rights law. It is disproportionate because it sweeps up the communications and communications records of million of innocent people first and only sorts out second what is actually needed. Obama's reforms take a step forward in recognizing that foreigners deserve at least some privacy, but to be consistent with the rule of law, the NSA must be forbidden from engaging in mass, untargeted surveillance in the U.S. or abroad."
Tamir Israel, staff lawyer at the Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy & Public Interest Clinic:
"The Obama administration deserves credit for recognizing in principle the importance of protecting foreigners' privacy rights. Unfortunately, this recognition in principle is unhelpful, as the President's Directive leaves the U.S. foreign intelligence apparatus' capacity to indiscriminately spy on all the activities of all foreigners all the time largely untouched."
Carly Nyst, Legal Director of Privacy International:
"The reforms proposed by President Obama fundamentally ignore those who are spied on simply because they don't have an American passport. We need genuine, effective changes that account for the way the world now communicates. Secret international intelligence-sharing arrangements must come to an end and human rights must be properly guaranteed to humans, not just American citizens."
Steven W. Hawkins, executive director of Amnesty International USA:
"The big picture takeaway from today's speech is that the right to privacy remains under grave threat both here at home and around the world. President Obama's recognition of the need to safeguard the privacy of people around the world is significant, but insufficient to end serious global concern over mass surveillance, which by its very nature constitutes abuse."
Brett Solomon, executive director at Access:
"The human right to privacy is universal. The rights of persons outside of the United States are as fundamental as the rights of U.S. citizens. However, the President's defense of ongoing overseas intelligence collection programs ensures that the citizens of the world will continue to be subject to mass surveillance."
"Today's speech from President Obama marks a substantial step forward in addressing the serious concerns from EU Member States in relation to NSA activities on mass surveillance and spying. Whilst he has now recognised that there is a need for additional privacy protections in the US for EU citizens, his comments may not have been enough to restore confidence following the confusion and concern over surveillance and spying allegations in relation to EU citizens, EU Member States, EU leaders and EU Institutions. It is clear the language was substantial but there will be a clear pause before EU citizens and other non-US targets of NSA alleged surveillance can feel that they have been assured of protections in law."
Katitza Rodriguez, EFF International Rights Director:
"Individuals should not be denied human rights simply because they live in another country from the one that is surveilling them. This is why EFF and hundred of NGOs are calling upon the public to sign the Necessary and Proportionate Principles. These 13 Principles establish a clear set of guidelines that define the human rights obligastions of governments engaged in communications surveillance. Tell Obama to put an end to mass surveillance of innocent individuals at home and abroad. Sign the Principles. Join the movement and tweet #privacyisaright"
Does anyone else feel uncomfortable with how far a reach that the NSA has and how much we probably still doesn't know? I know it's complex but this tension— between the desire for power at a federal level often in the guise of national security (though it may mean actually social control) and the tension with the whistleblower and the often maligned critics of the state (people who have criticized and exposed the government have been pretty effectively smeared in the press)— really shows I think how intrusive the government has become in the wake of the war on terror (arguably though, probably just reasserting a cold war paradigm). Even with the transparency, there is so much social control and aspects of government which aren't at all apparent to the public even though it directly affects aspects of our lives.