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Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy

Purpose of the mandate

Privacy enables the enjoyment of other rights: the free development and expression of an individual’s personality, identity and beliefs, and their ability to participate in political, economic, social and cultural life. The Special Rapporteur is mandated to promote and protect the right to privacy by:

  • Reviewing government policies and laws on the interception of digital communications and collection of personal data
  • Identifying actions that intrude on privacy without compelling justification
  • Assisting governments in developing best practices to bring global surveillance under the rule of law
  • Articulating private sector responsibilities to respect human rights
  • Helping ensure national procedures and laws are consistent with international human rights obligations

The Special Rapporteur for privacy is increasingly interested in privacy implications in the following areas:

  • Mass surveillance
  • Using and retaining personal data
  • Forensic DNA databases
  • Open Data and Big Data

About the mandate

In 2015, the Human Rights Council created the first mandate on privacy in resolution 28/16. It requested the Special Rapporteur to seek credible and reliable information from Governments, non-governmental organisations and any other parties who have knowledge of situations and cases relating to privacy. The mandate was renewed for a period of three years in March 2018 (A/HRC/RES/37/2).

More on the history of this mandate.

Current mandate holder

Prof. Joseph Cannatacithe first Special Rapporteur on the rights to privacyIn July 2015, the Human Rights Council appointed Prof. Joseph Cannataci of Malta as the first Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy. A UK Chartered Information Technology professional and Fellow of the British Computer Society, he is also an Expert Consultant to a number of international organisations and holds various positions at the University of Malta, the University of Groningen, and Edith Cowan University, Australia. His latest book, The Individual and Privacy: Volume I, was published by Ashgate in 2015. Read Professor Cannataci’s full biography.

Latest thematic reports

Preliminary evaluation of the privacy dimensions of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic: Published in July 2020, this report examines data protection and surveillance in relation to COVID-19 and contact tracing, which may be manual or technological, anonymous or not, consensual or non-consensual. View report page | View document A/75/147

Security and surveillance, health data, and business enterprises use of personal data: This report provides an overview of activities undertaken in 2019, and also provides recommendations for protecting against gender-based privacy infringements. View report page | View document A/HRC/43/52

Latest news

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Calls for input

Draft Data Privacy Guidelines in the context of Artificial Intelligence
Closed: 2 November 2020

Privacy and Children
Closed: 30 September 2020


Letter to Malta, suggesting amendments to Security Services Act Cap. 391 of the Laws of Malta
12 December 2019

Consultation on Gender and privacy, New York. ProgramInvitation to Consultation
30-31 October 2019

Letter to India on the data protection bill
12 November 2018

Letter to Australia on the Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment Bill
12 October 2018

Submission to OHCHR relating to the workshop on the right to privacy in the digital age
8 June 2018


29 October 2020
Third Committee, Virtual informal General Assembly, 75th session
Watch on UN Web TV

5 March 2020
SR on Privacy presents the Interactive Dialogue - 20th Meeting, 43rd Regular Session Human Rights Council
Watch on UN Web TV