Good News Arrives in Open Envelope and LetterA United Nations panel has advanced a landmark measure affirming rights against unwarranted government surveillance. Germany and Brazil drafted the resolution after the leaks of Edward Snowden showed widespread U.S. spying abroad. The U.N. General Assembly’s Third Committee approved it by consensus on Tuesday, setting up a full General Assembly vote next month. The German Ambassador to the United Nations, Peter Wittig, spoke after Tuesday’s vote.

Peter Wittig: “For the first time, in the framework of the United Nations, this resolution unequivocally states that the same rights that people have off-line must also be protected online. It also emphasizes that unlawful and arbitrary surveillance and the interception of communications are highly intrusive acts that violate the right to privacy and may also violate the freedom of expression. Furthermore, the resolution expresses deep concern at the negative impact that various forms of extra-territorial surveillance may have on the exercise and enjoyment of human rights.”

The spying measure was weakened at the request of the United States and Britain. The original draft said foreign surveillance could amount to “human rights violations and abuses.” But after objections from the United States and Britain, the text was changed to express concern over the “negative impact” of surveillance on human rights.