An ‘historic resolution’ between the UN Human Rights Council and privacy commissioners passed earlier this year to strengthen links between the organisations on the right to privacy.

The decision to appoint a United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy has been called an ‘historic resolution’ by Joy Liddicoat, assistant commissioner of New Zealand’s Office of the Privacy Commissioner.  The resolution, designed to strengthen links between privacy commissioners and the UN Human Rights Council, is entitled ‘the right to privacy in the digital age’. It reaffirms the right to privacy; recognises the global nature of the Internet; emphasises the need for privacy to be protected both on and offline and most importantly, establishes the post of Special Rapporteur for the next three years.

The establishment of such a high level privacy representative is likely to be a very popular one. Until this decision, few data protection and privacy commissioners have been able to be involved in the UN resolution process as mechanisms have not been in place to allow this. This has led to growing concerns, and at the beginning of March, a coalition of 92 civil society organisations, including Amnesty International, Privacy International and Article 19, came together to encourage the Council to make this appointment. They were rewarded with a resolution that provides a broad remit through which commissioners can contribute to protect and promote this privacy right.

The Special Rapporteur is required to undertake a number of key tasks, from raising awareness to providing effective access to an effective remedy to individuals who have been victims of privacy-related crimes. This appointment is aimed at increasing public appreciation of this issue but should also promote international collaboration when dealing with privacy issues by providing a figurehead for data protection concerns and recommendations.

The impact the Rapporteur will be able to achieve is yet to be seen, but with the encouragement and support of both Member States and private organisations, they should have no problem implementing their ideas. This is a massive step for privacy and is another demonstration of the growing concern for data privacy and data protection worldwide.