GENEVA (7 December 2023) – A UN expert has welcomed the comprehensive legal framework to safeguard privacy and data protection in Mauritius, but warned that challenges remain in its implementation.
“Mauritius is the first African country to ratify Convention 108+, established by the Council of Europe, and so I wanted to learn more about how authorities are managing data protection from a privacy perspective with the hope to identify good practices for the region,” said Ana Brian Nougrères, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy, after an eight-day visit to the country which concluded on 4 December.
“Overall, privacy is taken seriously in Mauritius and the Government has prioritised developing a comprehensive legal framework. However, the challenge, as is the case for all States, is to ensure the implementation of the laws”, the Special Rapporteur said.
“Mauritius is a leading example in the African region as it has aligned with the EU framework. Yet officials acknowledge that the State must be ready for the challenges of transitioning towards e-systems in the financial, health, social security and labour industries,” she said.
There is a need to continue to amend the legal and regulatory systems and implement measures to ensure a progressive evolution to promote and protect the right to privacy which is enshrined in the Constitution, the expert said.
Mauritius society is struggling with an illicit drug epidemic which has prompted the Government to undertake initiatives to address the issue, including CCTV cameras in public areas and the recently mandated re-registration of all mobile phone users. However, civil society has expressed concerns that the data may be collected, retained and used for other purposes.
The Special Rapporteur also heard about the importance of protecting the privacy rights of children, especially as cases of sexual exploitation, child trafficking, cyberbullying and security risks of children’s personal information when using and posting on social platforms continue to plague the most vulnerable in Mauritian society.
The expert shared her philosophy of the importance of awareness, education, cooperation, harmonisation and standardisation at the regional and international level.
She stressed that technological innovation is important, but it must be embraced using a human rights-based approach to mitigate the risks of misuse of personal information and to safeguard the fundamental right to privacy of its citizens.
The expert examined privacy issues in relation to personal data, including health data collected during Covid-19, sharing of data across borders and cybersecurity, surveillance, artificial intelligence, gender, vulnerable persons, and children in the digital age.
In Port Louis, the Special Rapporteur met officials from governmental, national human rights mechanisms, the judiciary, civil society, and representatives of the international community.
The Special Rapporteur will submit her report on the visit to the Human Rights Council in March 2025.
In July 2021, the Human Rights Council appointed Dr. Ana Brian Nougrères of Uruguay as the Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy. 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.
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.
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