panel Discussion on the right to privacy in the digital age

27th Session of the Human Rights Council
Panel Discussion on the right to privacy in the digital age

Date and venue Friday 12 September 2014, 9:00am – 12:00pm
Room XX, Palais des Nations, Geneva

Background

In its Decision 25/117, the Human Rights Council recalled General Assembly resolution 68/167 of 18 December 2013 on the right to privacy in the digital age. In that resolution, the General Assembly affirmed that the rights held by people offline must also be protected online, and called upon all States to respect and protect the right to privacy in digital communication. The resolution reaffirmed the human right to privacy, according to which no one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy, family, home or correspondence, and the right to the protection of the law against such interference. It recognised that the exercise of the right to privacy is important for the realization of the right to freedom of expression and to hold opinions without interference, and is one of the foundations of democratic society. The Assembly further called upon all States to review their procedures, practices and legislation related to communications surveillance, interception and collection of personal data, emphasizing the need for States to ensure the full and effective implementation of their obligations under international human rights law.

Also in resolution 68/167, the General Assembly requested the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to submit a report on the protection and promotion of the right to privacy in the context of domestic and extraterritorial surveillance and/or the interception of digital communications and the collection of personal data, including on a mass scale, to the Human Rights Council at its twenty-seventh session and to the General Assembly at its sixty-ninth session, with views and recommendations, to be considered by Member States. The report of the High Commissioner is contained in document A/HRC/27/37.

Mandate

In its decision A/HRC/25/117, adopted on 24 March 2014, the Human Rights Council decided to convene, at its twenty-seventh session, a panel discussion on the promotion and protection of the right to privacy in the digital age in the context of domestic and extraterritorial surveillance and/or the interception of digital communications and the collection of personal data, including on a mass scale, also with a view to identifying challenges and best practices, taking into account the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights requested by the General Assembly in its resolution 68/167.

The Human Rights Council requested the High Commissioner to organize the panel discussion, in consultation with States, relevant United Nations bodies, funds and programmes, treaty bodies, special procedures and regional human rights mechanisms, as well as with civil society, non-governmental organizations, the private sector and national human rights institutions, with a view to ensuring multi-stakeholder participation in the panel discussion. The Council further requested the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a summary report on the panel discussion for submission to the Human Rights Council at its twenty-eighth session.

Objective

Based on the request of the Human Rights Council, the panel discussion aims to examine the promotion and protection of the right to privacy in the digital age in the context of domestic and extraterritorial surveillance and/or the interception of digital communications and the collection of personal data, including on a mass scale, also with a view to identifying challenges and best practices, taking into account the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/27/37).

Panel

Chair H.E. Mr. Baudelaire Ndong Ella
President of the Human Rights Council

Moderator Mr. Marko Milanovic,
Associate Professor, Nottingham University

Introductory Remarks Ms. Flavia Pansieri
Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights

Panelists

• Catalina Botero, IACHR Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression
• Sarah Cleveland, Professor, Columbia Law School
• Yves Nissim, Deputy Chief CSR officer at Orange, former Chair of the Telecommunications Industry Dialogue
• Carly Nyst, Legal Director, Privacy International

Format

The sequence of speakers during this panel discussion will be as follows:
1. The panel discussion shall be chaired by the President of the Human Rights Council and will begin with an opening statement by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights or the Deputy High Commissioner, followed by introductory remarks by the moderator.
2. A 35-minute initial discussion will follow between the panelists, led by the moderator, allowing each panelist five to seven minutes speaking time.
3. The remainder of the session will be dedicated to interaction between Member States, observers and panelists. There will be two rounds of discussion of 45 minutes for comments and questions from the floor, limited to a maximum of 2 minutes, followed by 15 minutes for comments and replies by panelists. The delegates representing Member or observer States, United Nations agencies and international and regional organizations may inscribe on the list of speakers through the electronic system installed in Room XX. NGOs may inscribe using the online registration system and NHRIs may inscribe with the NHRI focal point.
4. States, national human rights institutions, non-governmental organizations and other observers are encouraged to intervene in an interactive way, through questions, comments and sharing of experiences, good practices and challenges as well as suggested recommendations on the way forward, with a view to stimulating constructive debate.
5. At the end of the panel discussion, panelists will be given three minutes each to make their concluding remarks, followed by final remarks of the moderator.

Outcome

The expected outcomes of this panel discussion are:

– States and other stakeholders will gain a better understanding of the challenges linked to the protection and promotion of the right to privacy in the context of domestic and extraterritorial surveillance and/or the interception of digital communications and the collection of personal data, including on a mass scale, and will be able to learn from shared experiences and identify good practices.

– OHCHR will prepare a summary report on the outcome of the panel discussion, which will be submitted to the Human Rights Council at its 28th session.

Background documents
– Human Rights Council decision 25/117 “Panel on the right to privacy in the digital age”
– General Assembly resolution 68/167 on “The right to privacy in the digital age”
– Report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the right to privacy in the digital age A/HRC/27/37

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