Human Rights Council to select a new Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy

Author: 
APC

The Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy is a mandate first created by the Human Rights Council in 2015. On 23 March 2021, the mandate was renewed by the Human Rights Council. To this date, only one person has served as mandate holder, Prof. Joseph Cannataci of Malta. The post was originally created after much demand by civil society groups.

Privacy is a fundamental human right, and is central to the maintenance of democratic societies, yet violations of this right are commonplace and multifaceted. As APC and partners have recently highlighted, its interdependence and indivisibility with other fundamental human rights – including the rights to freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and association, and equality and non-discrimination – is a central aspect of the right to privacy today. The right to privacy is also a human right to be enjoyed by all. However, a person’s experience of privacy is very much shaped by their gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. The collection, processing and exploitation of data, by both state and non-state actors, are not gender-neutral acts. In the digital age, we see offline misogyny, heteropatriarchy and gendered injustices not only replicated, but also exacerbated and taking on new forms. These include online violence, harassment, blackmail, entrapment, profiling, discrimination and censorship.

The mandate of the Special Rapporteur is essential to promoting the protection of this fundamental right that confronts multifaceted challenges, including the impact of massive implementation of algorithmic and automated decision-making systems, and the pervasive effects of the surveillance industry and the expansion of both massive and targeted surveillance practices; among others.

The Special Rapporteur is mandated to promote and protect the right to privacy by:

  • Reviewing government policies and laws on the interception of digital communications and collection of personal data.

  • Identifying actions that intrude on privacy without compelling justification.

  • Assisting governments in developing best practices to bring global surveillance under the rule of law.

  • Articulating private sector responsibilities to respect human rights.

  • Helping ensure national procedures and laws are consistent with international human rights obligations.

APC has contributed to the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy with arguments and studies that highlight gender perspectives on privacy. As emphasised by APC and partners when the mandate was created, commitment to the universal application of human rights, relevant experience, competence, independence and personal integrity should be obligatory requirements for any individual to be considered an eligible candidate for this mandate. The new Special Rapporteur should also be well positioned to address the gendered dimensions of privacy. 

We call on eligible candidates to participate in the selection process. We also ask for a selection process that is transparent. Candidates should not only present their formal applications to the Human Rights Council, but also establish a dialogue with different stakeholders to share their ideas and plans for the mandate.

Further information on the selection process can be found at the website of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The deadline for applications is 13 April 2021.

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