UN to appoint watchdog to focus on privacy in digital age

A 'special rapporteur' is to be appointed for a period of three years

The Human Rights Council of the United Nations has voted in favor of a resolution backed by Germany and Brazil to appoint an independent watchdog or 'special rapporteur' to monitor privacy rights in the digital age.

The council said Thursday that the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, including the right to privacy.

The proposed appointment of the rapporteur is likely to be mainly symbolic as the official's functions will be mainly advisory. But it reflects continuing concerns around the world about privacy in the wake of disclosures of U.S. surveillance by former National Security Agency contractor, Edward Snowden.

The resolution refers to the deep concern of the Human Rights Council at the negative impact on the exercise of human rights of surveillance or interception of communications both within countries and abroad, and of the collection of personal data, in particular when carried out on a mass scale.

German officials said in October 2013 that U.S. intelligence agencies may have spied on German Chancellor Angela Merkel's mobile phone. There were also reports that the U.S. also spied on Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff among other political leaders.

The vote on Thursday was clearly prompted by concern over U.S. surveillance practices and the security of digital information, said the American Civil Liberties Union. The civil rights group said this was evident from ACLU's meetings with the sponsors of the resolution and from the text of the document.

"Our hope is that the Human Rights Council resolution marks the beginning of a serious global reckoning with mass surveillance and its effects," said Eileen Donahoe, director of global affairs at Human Rights Watch in a statement.

The new watchdog will, among other things, report on alleged violations of the right to privacy, and raise awareness concerning the importance of promoting and protecting the right to privacy, with a special reference to challenges arising in the digital age. The council has called upon all states to cooperate with the rapporteur, including by providing the information requested.

In November last year, a U.N. panel approved a resolution that would have the General Assembly call on states to respect and protect the right to privacy in the digital age.

The draft resolution, titled "Right to privacy in the digital age," also had Brazil and Germany as the main sponsors.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags privacyinternetU.S. National Security AgencyUnited Nations Human Rights Council

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

John Ribeiro

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Mobile

Exec

Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?