Human Rights Watch: Why the UN Special Rapporteur on privacy matters


/ March 31, 2015

Eileen Donahoe of Human Rights Watch on the UN Human Rights Council’s 26 March adoption of a resolution to appoint a special rapporteur (an independent expert) on the right to privacy – and why it’s important:

For human rights defenders, [questions of privacy] are urgent because defenders often delve into problems or raise issues that governments would rather keep hidden. Their safety and that of victims and witnesses is at stake, as is their very ability to do their work…

A Special Rapporteur will be able to:

  • more systematically review government policies on interception of digital communications and collection of personal data;
  • pinpoint policies that intrude on privacy without compelling justification;
  • identify best practices to bring global surveillance under the rule of law;
  • and help ensure that national procedures and laws are consistent with international human rights law obligations.

…At present, private sector actors vary widely in what data they retain, and their practices in many instances have a direct bearing on what governments are able to collect and monitor…The Rapporteur will also have the scope to explore private sector responsibilities to respect human rights under the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights in the specific context of digital information and communication technology.

Article 19 has more on the special rapporteur’s mandate.

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Tom started out writing and editing for newspapers, consultancies and think tanks on topics including politics and corruption in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, then moved into designing and managing election-related projects in countries including Myanmar, Bangladesh, Rwanda and Bolivia. After getting interested in what data and technology could add in those areas and elsewhere, he made a beeline for The Engine Room. Tom is trying to read all of the Internet, but mostly spends his time picking out useful resources and trends for organisations using technology in their work.

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