Joint statement on the right to privacy

Mr. President,

I have the honour to address this Council on behalf of Austria, Brazil, Germany, Liechtenstein, Mexico, Norway and Switzerland.

For the past three years we have achieved significant progress on the promotion and protection of the right to privacy in the digital age within the Human Rights Council.

During the 31st session of the Council, the Special Rapporteur presented his first report and we committed to engage with him in a constructive way, with a view to ensuring the protection and promotion of the right to privacy in the digital age. The co-sponsors are eager to see his mandate realize its full potential in the UN human rights system.

We remain concerned about the negative impact that surveillance and interception of communications, including extraterritorial surveillance and interception of communications, as well as the collection of personal data, in particular when carried out on a mass scale, may have on the exercise and enjoyment of human rights, particularly on the right to privacy.

We reiterate that interference with an individual’s right to privacy is only permissible under international human rights law if it is neither arbitrary nor unlawful. While surveillance is not per se a violation of human rights, any limitation to the right to privacy must adhere to the overarching principles of legality, necessity and proportionality. Furthermore, any limitation to the right to privacy must not render the essence of the right meaningless and must be consistent with other human rights, including the prohibition of discrimination.

We are convinced that the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, including the right to privacy.

It is incumbent upon States to respect international human rights obligations regarding the right to privacy when they intercept digital communications of individuals or collect personal data, as well as when they require disclosure of personal data from third parties, including private companies.

We reiterate our call for the HRC to remain actively seized of the matter. 

It is also crucial to address the implementation challenges to the right to privacy in the digital age, such asprocedural safeguards, effective domestic oversight and remedies and the scope of its extraterritorial application.

We therefore reiterate our commitment to an open, comprehensive and permanent multi-stakeholder dialogue, involving governments, civil society, private sector, academia, human rights and technical experts. We further recognize the important role to be played by this Council in nurturing this debate and welcome the Special Rapporteur’s contributions to this process. In order to advance this process and the discussion on the right to privacy in the digital age, we welcome the cooperation between different mandate holders.

We encourage States and all relevant stakeholders, including the United Nations and its agencies, programs and funds, regional human rights mechanisms, national human rights institutions, civil society and the private sector to continue to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur to enable him to fulfil his mandate.

We reaffirm our commitment to further promote the Right to Privacy in the Digital Age. This includes a substantive resolution at the 71st General Assembly and continued engagement of the Human Rights Council in this matter.

Thank you.