The right to privacy as provided for in Article 17 of the ICCPR. Even countries perceived to uphold the freedom of expression have engaged in activities highly intrusive in people’s privacy. There are several recent examples of alleged surveillance activities undertaken by different State entities. For example, in October 2013, after the German Chancellor ‘angrily condemned America’s “unacceptable” behavior after “firm suspicions” emerged that United States intelligence agencies had monitored her personal mobile telephone for almost four years, questions were raised about the acceptability of ubiquitous digital surveillance. At the same time, Der Spiegel reported in August 2014 that ‘Germany’s foreign intelligence collection agency was spying on Turkey. Based on anonymous sources, it also reported that calls made by Secretary of State John Kerry and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were accidentally recorded.’ Unlawful interference with privacy has also been underlined by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, who noted in her report of 30 June 2014 that ‘[p]ractices in many States have […] revealed a lack of adequate national legislation and/or enforcement, weak procedural safeguards, and ineffective oversight, all of which have contributed to a lack of accountability for arbitrary or unlawful interference in the right to privacy.’ In such an environment, it is natural that both individuals and public entities would pay more attention to protecting their privacy, even if they feel that their freedom of expression is not imperiled.
However, even though the ICCPR does not contain any explicit limitation on the right to privacy, it is obvious that this right is not boundless. The European Convention on Human Rights, which defines the right in similar words, provides a list of exceptions. For example, certain measures during a criminal investigation can legally interfere with the right to privacy. Nevertheless, the alleged ubiquity of mass surveillance raises concerns about the proportionality between the results of such surveillance and the interference with people’s privacy.