UN creates new Special Rapporteur on the Right to Privacy

The Human Rights Council in Geneva passed a unanimous resolution on March 26, 2015, to appoint a new independent expert, or Special Rapporteur, with the mandate of promoting and protecting the right to privacy worldwide.

Responding to calls from civil society, and the leadership of Brazil and Germany, the UN Human Rights Council made a decisive step toward long-term protection of the right to privacy, online and offline.

“Nearly two years after revelations of mass surveillance online, world leaders have recognized the need for a long-lasting, singular authority to guide governments and companies on how to protect and respect our privacy rights,” said Peter Micek, Senior Policy Counsel at Access. “We champion this move, and pledge to join with all stakeholders to ensure this new office exercises its fullest potential in the name of users at risk around the world.”

The vote follows extensive work on privacy in the digital age at the UN. The Human Rights Council convened a high-level panel last year and received a report by the then-UN high commissioner on human rights, Navi Pillay. The General Assembly passed two unanimous resolutions authored by Brazil and Germany calling for greater attention to privacy rights online, and suggesting the creation of this new expert office. Civil society joined the fight, as Access and 92 other organizations co-sponsored an oral statement at the Council earlier this month supporting the creation of a new independent expert on privacy.

The Special Rapporteur will be appointed in June, almost exactly two years after the release of classified documents exposing mass surveillance online.