Global Freedom of Expression

2 March


Surveillance of Dissent: Dangers and Solutions

  • 6:00pm-7:30pm EST
  • Room 1501, School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University
    420 W 118th St
    New York, NY 10027

In December 2013, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 68/167, which expressed deep concern at the negative impact that surveillance and interception of communications may have on human rights. Seven years later, one may question how much has been done and achieved in terms of controlling Governments’ unlawful use of surveillance. 2019 was rife with reports and news of surveillance technologies used to target journalists, activists, opposition figures and others exercising their fundamental rights. It is possible that surveillance played a role in one of the most gruesome assassination of a journalist in recent history, that of Jamal Khashoggi who was killed and dismembered by Saudi operatives in a Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. The hacking of Jeff Bezos’ phone shows that even some of the most powerful individuals in the world are susceptible to the dangers of private surveillance technologies.

The private surveillance industry has thrived with low levels of transparency and weak controls on sale of technology. In such context, how can human rights violations stemming from the use of surveillance technologies be prevented and accountability ensured? Is the only solution a complete moratorium on the sale of surveillance of technology? Or can rigorous and safeguards against misuse be developed and effectively implemented?

Columbia Global Freedom of Expression, Columbia Public Policy Review, the Digital and Cyber Group (DCG), the Human Rights Working Group, SIPA’s Human Rights and Humanitarian Policy Concentration, SIPA’s Tech, Media, and Communications Specialization, SIPA’s Tech and Policy Initiative, and the Technology Innovation Student Association (TISA) invite you to a panel discussion with human rights experts, lawyers and technologists to consider these and other questions concerning the dangers of private surveillance technology and possible responses.

The panelists include:

  • Agnes Callamard, Director, Columbia Global Freedom of Expression and UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions
  • Katie Fallow, Senior Attorney, The Knight First Amendment Institute
  • Camille Francois, Chief Innovation Officer, Graphika
  • Avi Asher-Schapiro, Global Tech Senior Correspondent, The Committee to Protect Journalists

The discussion will be moderated by:

  • Susan McGregor, Assistant Director, Tow Center for Digital Journalism and Assistant Professor, Columbia Journalism School

The event is free and open to the public. You can register by going here: