UN Human Rights Commissioner to Organise Workshop on Right to Privacy in the Digital Age

António Guterres, UN Secretary General
António Guterres, UN Secretary General

The United Nations (UN) Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) will convene an expert workshop in Geneva on February 19 and 20, 2018 for the purpose of “identifying and clarifying principles, standards and best practices regarding the promotion and protection of the right to privacy in the digital age, including the responsibility of business enterprises in this regard,” as a follow-up to the HRC Resolution 34/7 (A/HRC/RES/34/7) adopted on March 23, 2017.

After the workshop, OHCHR will prepare and publish a report on the right to privacy in the digital age, which will be submitted to the Council at its 39th session and which will take into account the discussions at the workshop, as requested by the Human Rights Council in its said resolution.

Aimed at exchanging international, regional and national experiences and practices concerning the protection and promotion of the right to privacy in the digital age, the workshop, apart from the plenary, has been structured around six thematic sessions with the first session scheduled to focus on the importance of the right to privacy as a gateway to the exercise of other rights by all individuals, including the right to freedom of opinion and expression. The session will provide an opportunity to discuss how interferences with the right to privacy can have a chilling effect on civic space and may affect the work of human rights defenders, the media, artists and activists, thereby inhibiting the functioning of a vibrant civil society.

To address the issue of “Surveillance and communications interception,” the second panel will examine principles and standards applicable to government surveillance and interception of communications, including the principles of non-arbitrariness, lawfulness, legality, necessity and proportionality, transparency, accountability and non-discrimination.

Titled “Securing and protecting online confidentiality,” the third session will investigate issues surrounding online confidentiality. It will discuss encryption and anonymity as necessary enablers for the exercise of many human rights, including the right to freedom of opinion and expression. It will examine ways of protecting the right to privacy by integrating privacy considerations into the design of goods and services – also known as “Privacy by Design.” Thus, panellists will address business enterprises as the main providers of secure information and communications tools and their role vis-à-vis States seeking to weaken the security of information and communications technology in order to obtain personal information.

Session four is centred on the subject: “Processing of personal data by individuals, Governments, business enterprises and private organisations,” thereby concluding Day 1 of the workshop.

The second Day is also billed to continue from session 5 with the title “New and emerging issues” while the sixth and final session discusses the “Procedural and institutional safeguards, oversight and remedies.”

To attend the event at the Palais Wilson, Geneva, registration is required. Interested persons are advised to follow the instructions on the following webpagehttps://reg.unog.ch/event/23175/. Interpretation will be provided in all UN languages.