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Data protection systems must find balance between protecting privacy and economic integration - UN expert

12 March 2022

GENEVA (11 March 2022) – A model personal data protection system must seek a healthy balance between protecting the fundamental right of privacy and the free circulation of goods, persons, services, and capital, while ensuring economic and social integration, a UN human rights expert said on Thursday.

“My goal is to provide clear international guidelines on how to protect against privacy infringements, to prevent violations experienced by individuals and vulnerable groups, and to ensure their dignity, equality and freedoms are protected,” the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy, Ana Brian Nougrères, said in a report to the Human Rights Council.

Nougrères said it was crucial to overcome potential technological challenges to privacy, particularly discriminatory practices carried out by both State and non-State actors in fields of artificial intelligence, robotics, the internet of things, virtual reality, augmented reality, biotechnology, blockchain technology and mass video-surveillance.

“The digital era has many benefits; but some digital technologies have enabled privacy to be violated. Privacy is a fundamental right that enables autonomy, decision-making, innovation and, ultimately, the development of the human personality,” the expert said.

The report examines how the Ibero-American and European Union personal data protection systems could provide a model for harmonization and cooperation in the development of data privacy principles in the global context.  

“Cooperation between Ibero-America and Europe mechanisms can create a more integrated system of personal data protection, based on mutual respect, and just and democratic principles,” Nougrères said.

Achieving this cooperation could result in the implementation of digital privacy principles, in which integration and harmonization are achievable goals, provided it can be implemented based on ethical principles that guarantee respect for the diversity of all peoples, the expert said.

ENDS

In July 2021, the Human Rights Council appointed Dr. Ana Brian Nougrères of Uruguay as the Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy and she took up the mandate on 1 August 2021. A Professor of Law, Privacy and ICT at the School of Engineering, University of Montevideo and a Professor of Law, Data Protection and ICT at the School of Law, University of the Republic, Montevideo. She is also a practicing Attorney-at-law and Consultant on data protection.

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 organisation and serve in their individual capacity.

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