Human Rights Council Panel Discussion on Privacy in the Digital Age

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Last Friday I had the privilege of moderating the panel discussion on the right to privacy in the digital age at the 27th regular session of the Human Rights Council. The video of the panel discussion is available here, and a press release summarizing some of the statements here. OHCHR will be producing a more detailed report on the discussion in due course.

It was a very interesting event, which benefited from four great panelists – Catalina Botero, the special rapporteur on the freedom of expression in the Inter-American system; Sarah Cleveland, professor at Columbia Law School; Yves Nissim, deputy chief of corporate social responsibility at Orange Telecom; and Carly Nyst, legal director of Privacy International. The discussion was lively and interactive, and also benefited from many comments from the floor by states and various NGOs. (Incidentally Dapo will also be moderating a HRC panel discussion next week on drones and counter-terrorism, also with an excellent cast of participants).

There was broad endorsement, from states as well as from the panelists, of the High Commissioner’s important report on the right to privacy in the digital age, with some disagreement on specific issues. The comments from the floor were quite varied in terms of topic, but two big themes were the application of the ICCPR to extraterritorial surveillance (on which see more here), and the quantity and quality of oversight and accountability mechanisms. The panelists and NGOs also called for the establishment of a new special rapporteur on the right to privacy.

The right to privacy in the digital age and the High Commissioner’s report will next be considered by the UN General Assembly at its forthcoming session next month.

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Jordan says

September 15, 2014

A critical error appears in the H.C.'s Report, para. 34, etc. re: the reach of the ICCPT b/c the person must be within the actual power or effective control of the state, not merely the data. I hope someone pointed that out, but look forward to the new information

Jordan says

September 19, 2014

p.s. of course I meant to type ICCPR. The interesting slight of hand from para. 32 (a person within the power or effective control) to para. 34 ("controls the data" and control of the "infrastructure") was set up by: "It follows that."

Markus Guntram says

September 23, 2014

Dear Mr. Milanovic,

thank you for this interestung blog entry and analysis. I watched parts of the video and will watch the whole video later. However, i have a question to you: Do you remember if the ECJ's Right To Be Forgotten has been commented at any part of the session?

best regards

Marko Milanovic says

September 23, 2014

Markus, no as far as I can recall there was no discussion of that particular point (even though it is very relevant).