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Argentina: Expert finds significant progress in privacy protection, but says more must be done

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GENEVA (23 May 2019) - Argentina has made significant progress in the protection of privacy, especially over the past three years, but there are still some concerns about key safeguards, a UN human rights expert said on a statement following a 12-day visit to the country.

The Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy, Joseph Cannataci, noted progress in reinforcing the autonomy and increased resources of the data protection authority, and the complete reform and exemplary transparency of the agency tasked with carrying out telephone interceptions.

He also commended increased level of capacity for compliance observance within the country’s spy agency, AFI, the commencement of snap inspections inside military intelligence and the adherence by Argentina to the International Data Protection Convention.

Cannataci expressed concern at the high number of telephone interceptions being carried out, saying this practice should only be done as a last resort. “Police and prosecutors are requesting interceptions to be carried out far too readily and far too frequently,” he said.

The Special Rapporteur also questioned the methodology used in interceptions. “While the rule of law is respected, the system devised to enable use of the intercepted material is antiquated and of poor design which increases risks,” Cannataci said. “The current system results in the flow of millions of physical CDs which are far can easily fall into wrong hands.”

Moreover, he said, a system should be introduced in line with international best practices, whereby investigators are not given the entire contents of intercepted lines but rather only those parts relevant to their investigations.

Cannataci called on Argentina to introduce safeguards on surveillance capabilities and intelligence. “An essential element of oversight already exists in the important work carried out by the Bicameral Commission on intelligence of the Argentine legislature,” he said. “That however is insufficient insofar as the Commission does not exercise its legal ability to its full or have the resources to fully audit the conduct of a specific case, and does not have full access to the contents of a case file.”

The Special Rapporteur recommended the creation of an independent body to complement the work of the Bicameral Commission. It should include a mix of senior judges, ICT technical staff and experienced domain experts who have full authority to carry out snap-checks of both intelligence agencies and police services in order to assess whether the surveillance was legal, necessary and proportionate.

The Special Rapporteur also expressed concern about the increased interest in, and actual deployment of, number-plate and facial recognition technologies without adequate use of privacy impact assessment methodologies.

ENDS

Mr. 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 on 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 –Argentina

For more information and press inquiries, please contact: 

During the visit: Mr. Jon Izagirre Garcia (+41 79 444 5401;
Press contact in Argentina: Mr. Gustavo Poch: (+54 011 4803 7671 / poch@un.org);

In Geneva (before and after the visit): Mr. Jon Izagirre Garcia (+41 22 917 97 15 / jizagirre@ohchr.org) or srprivacy@ohchr.org;

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:  Jeremy Laurence – Media Unit (+41 22 917 9383 / jlaurence@ohchr.org)