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Right to privacy: UN privacy expert announces first fact-finding visit to the USA (19-27 June)

GENEVA / WASHINGTON (15 June 2017) – United Nations Special Rapporteur Joseph Cannataci will undertake his first official visit to the United States of America from 19 to 27 June. He will discuss issues related to security and surveillance, big data and open data, health data, and personal data processed by private corporations.

“I will place particular focus on the efficacy and proportionality of intrusive measures, identify problematic areas and best practices, and make recommendations for the way forward for the current administration,” Mr.  Cannataci said.

He will pay special attention to surveillance within US society, the discussion on renewing FISA 702, international intelligence-sharing agreements and the electronic sharing of health data.

Mr. Cannataci, who visits the country at the invitation of the Government, will also study good practices in the protection of the right to privacy.

The independent expert is mandated by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor, report and advise on the promotion and protection of the right to privacy in the digital age around the world.

During his nine-day mission, the Special Rapporteur will meet representatives of the Government and Congress, civil society organisations working on the right to privacy, and representatives of the private sector. He will travel to Washington, D.C., New York, Chicago, Sacramento and San Francisco.

“I consider this visit as yet another step in the continuous efforts to improve the situation of the human right to privacy in the United States and globally,” he said. “I would like to think that the United States should show leadership when it comes to the protection, promotion and respect of one of the most crucial universal rights for liberal democracies.”

“The visit will allow me to identify possible obstacles to the promotion and protection of the right to privacy in the United States, to raise awareness concerning the importance of promoting and protecting the right to privacy, as well as the way forward in line with international standards agreed to by the US Government,” the expert added.

A press conference to share the Special Rapporteur’s preliminary findings will be held on 27 June at 11:30 at the conference room of the Liaison Office for North America of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2121 K Street NW, Suite 800B, Washington, D.C. Access to the press conference is strictly limited to journalists.

The independent expert will present a comprehensive report containing its findings and recommendations to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2018.

Prof. Joseph Cannataci (Malta) was appointed as the first Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy by the Human Rights Council in July 2015. He is an academic who has had a pioneering role in the development of data protection, privacy law and technology law. A UK Chartered Information Technology Professional & Fellow of the British Computer Society, he also continues to act as Expert Consultant to a number of international organisations.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, country page: United States

For more information and media inquiries, please contact:
In Washington, during the visit: Ms. Deborah DeYoung (deyoung@un.org / office: +1 202 454 2107 / cell: +1 202 276 8670
During and after the visit: Mr. Jon Izagirre Garcia (+41 22 917 79 15 in Geneva / +41 79 752 04 81 during the mission / jizagirre@ohchr.org)

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, OHCHR Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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