Press Statement: Privacy International And Italian Coalition For Civil Liberties And Rights Submission Details Troubling Aspects Of Italian Surveillance Practices

This week in Geneva, the UN Human Rights Committee will examine the Italy’s compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), an international treaty which places obligations on signatories to guarantee human rights such as the right to privacy, from 6–10 March. Privacy International and the Italian Coalition for Civil Liberties and Rights has filed a joint submission to the Committee detailing significant concerns relating to privacy protections in Italy.

Key concerns from our submission

  • Hacking activities by Italian law enforcement and intelligence agencies has been deemed constitutional and in accordance with human rights law by the Italian Supreme Court in July 2016.
  • The country continues to share intelligence without any statutory authorisation, transparency, or effective oversight. According to some reports Italy shares intelligence with Governments who are known for their human rights abuses, including Syria and Nigeria.
  • Italy engages in indiscriminate data retention, which violates both Article 17 and the recent Watson decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union. The Italian Government has recently adopted an anti-terrorism decree which compels companies to retain data even beyond the statutory periods determined by Parliament.
  • Italian surveillance companies such as Hacking Team as Area SpA elucidate the Italian regulation of export controls for surveillance technologies suffers from significant limitations. In particular, the Government is not meeting its due diligence obligation to prevent the export of these technologies where there is a substantive risk that they will be used to undermine human rights.

The review comes at a critical time for Italian laws and policies on privacy and surveillance. In recent months, the Italian regulatory authorities have increased their efforts to limit the export of surveillance technologies from Italian companies such as Hacking Team and Area SpA to countries with poor human rights record, such as Egypt and Syria. Meanwhile, a draft bill titled “Rules Governing the Use of Government Trojan with Respect For Individual Rights”, also known as the “Trojan Bill”, is currently pending before the Justice Committee of the Italian Parliament. The bill calls for amending Article 266 to reflect the Court’s judgment, as well as establish a more robust system for authorizing remote and covert hacking.

The review by the Human Rights Committee will offer an independent assessment of the compliance of the current Italian laws, policies, and practices with the ICCPR and could provide useful guidance to inform the Italian authorities on the measures needed to effectively protect the right to privacy.

Italian version of press release here

Notes for editors

The periodic report of Italy will be reviewed by the Human Rights Committee at its 119th ordinary session in Geneva. The public debate is scheduled to take place on Thursday, 9 March (15.00 to 18.00, Geneva time) and Friday, 10 March (10.00–13.00).

Information on the session (including all reports submitted) is available on Human Rights Committee’s website.

The session will be webcasted live here.

Italian Coalition for Civil Liberties and Rights and Privacy International’s submission in advance of the consideration of the report by Italy is available at the following link.