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UN Human Rights Council Resolution on the Right to Privacy in the Digital Age (2015)

GE.15 -06878 (E)

Human Rights Council
Twent y-eigh th session
Agenda item 3
Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil ,
political, economic, social and cultural righ ts,
including the right to development
Resolution adopted by the Human Rights Council
28/16 . The right to privacy in the digital age
The Human Rights Council ,
Guided by the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations,
Reaffirming the human rights and fundamental freedoms enshrined in the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights and relevant international human rights treaties, including the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on
Economic, S ocial and Cultural Rights,
Recalling the universality, indivisibility, interdependence and interrelatedness of all
human rights and fundamental freedoms,
Reaffirming the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action,
Recalling its resolution s 5/1 , on institut ion -building of the Human Rights Council,
and 5/2 , on the Code of Conduct for Special Procedures Mandate Holders of the Council, of
18 June 2007, and stressing that the mandate holder shall discharge his or her duties in
accordance with those resolutions a nd the annexes thereto,
Recalling also General Assembly resolutions 68/167 of 18 December 2013 and
69/166 of 18 December 2014 on the right to privacy in the digital age, and Human Rights
Council decision 25/117 of 27 March 2014 on the panel on the right to privacy in the digital
age,
Recalling further its resolutions 20/8 of 5 July 2012 and 26/13 of 26 June 2014 on
the promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet,
Welcoming the work of the Office of the United Nations High Commissione r for
Human Rights on the right to privacy in the digital age, noting with interest its report
United Nations A /HRC/ RES/ 28/16

General Assembly Distr.: General
1 April 2015

Original: English

A/HRC/ RES/ 28/16
2
there on, 1 and recalling the panel discussion on the right to privacy in the digital age held
during the twenty -seventh sessi on of the Human Rights Council, 2
Taki ng n ote of the report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection
of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism 3 and the report of the
Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and
expression, 4
Noting with appreciation general comment No. 16 of the Human Rights Committee
on the right to respect of privacy, family, home and correspondence, and protection of
honour and reputation, 5 while also noting the vast technological leaps th at have taken place
since its adoption,
Recalling that the General Assembly in its resolution 69/166 encourage d the Human
Rights Council to remain actively seized of the debate on the right to privacy in the digital
age, with the purpose of identifying and clarifying principles, standards and best practices
regarding the promotion and protection of the right to privacy, and to consider the
possibility of establishing a special procedure to that end,
Recognizing the need to further discuss and analy se, on th e bas is of international
human rights law, issues relating to the promotion and protection of the right to privacy in
the digital age, procedural safeguards, effective domestic oversight and remedies, the
impact of surveillance on the right to privacy and other human rights, as well as the need to
examine the principles of non -arbitrariness and lawfulness, and the relevance of necessity
and proportionality assessments in relation to surveillance practices,
Reaffirming the human right to privacy, according t o which no one shall be
subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy, family, home or
correspondence, and the right to the protection of the law against such interference, and
recognizing that the exercise of the right to privacy is important for the realization of the
right to freedom of expression and to hold opinions without interference and the right to
freedom of peaceful assembly and association, and is one of the foundations of a
democratic society,
Noting that the rapid pa ce of technological development enables individuals all over
the world to use new information and communication s technolog y and at the same time
enhances the capacity of governments, companies and individuals to undertake
surveillance, interception and dat a collection, which may violate or abuse human rights, in
particular the right to privacy, as set out in article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights and article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and is
therefore an issue of increasing concern,
Noting also that , while metadata can provide benefits, certain types of metadata,
when aggregated, can reveal personal information and can give an insight into an
individual ’s behaviour, social relationships, private preferenc es and identity,
Emphasizing that States must respect international human rights obligations
regarding the right to privacy when they intercept digital communications of individuals

1 A/HRC/2 7/37.
2 See A/HRC/2 8/39.
3 A/69/397 .
4 A/HRC/23/40 and Corr.1 .
5 Official Records of the General Assembly, Forty -third Session, Supplement No. 40 (A/43/40),
annex VI.

A/HRC/ RES/ 28/16
3
and/or collect personal data and when they require disclosure of personal data from third
parties, including private companies,
Recalling that business enterprises have a responsibility to respect human rights as
set out in the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Implementing the United
Nations “Protect, Respect and Remedy” Framework, 6
Deeply concerned at the negative impact that surveillance and/or interception of
communications, including extraterritorial surveillance and/or interception of
communications, as well as the collection of personal data, in particular w hen carried out
on a mass scale, may have on the exercise and enjoyment of human rights,
Noting with deep concern that, in many countries, persons and organizations
engaged in promoting and defending human rights and fundamental freedoms frequently
face th reats and harassment and suffer insecurity as well as unlawful or arbitrary
interference with their right to privacy as a result of their activities,
Noting that , while concerns about public security may justify the gathering and
protection of certain sens itive information, States must ensure full compliance with their
obligations under international human rights law,
Noting also in that respect that the prevention and suppression of terrorism is a
public interest of great importance, while reaffirming that States must ensure that any
measures taken to combat terrorism are in compliance with their obligations under
international law, in particular international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law,
1. Reaffirms the right to privacy, according to which no one shall be subjected
to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy, family, home or
correspondence, and the right to the protection of the law against such interference, as set
out in article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Ri ghts and article 17 of the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;
2. Recognizes the global and open nature of the Internet and the rapid
advancement in information and communications technolog y as a driving force in
accelerating progress tow ards development in its various forms;
3. Affirms that the same rights that people have offline must also be protected
online, including the right to privacy;
4. Decides to appoint, for a period of three years, a special rapporteur on the
right to privacy, whose tasks will include:
(a) To gather relevant information, including on international and national
frameworks, national practices and experience, to study trends, developments and
challenges in relation to the right to privacy and to make recommendatio ns to ensure its
promotion and protection, including in connection with the challenges arising from new
technologies;
(b) To seek, receive and respond to information, while avoiding duplication,
from States, the United Nations and its agencies, programmes and funds, regional human
rights mechanisms, national human rights institutions, civil society organizations, the
private sector, including business enterprises, and any other relevant stakeholder s or parties;
(c) To identify possible obstacles to the prom otion and protection of the right to
privacy , to identify, exchange and promote principles and best practices at the national,
regional and international levels, and to submit proposals and recommendations to the

6 A/HRC/17/31, annex.

A/HRC/ RES/ 28/16
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Human Rights Council in that regard, includ ing with a view to particular challenges arising
in the digital age;
(d) To participate in and contribute to relevant international conferences and
events with the aim of promoting a systematic and coherent approach on issues pertaining
to t he mandate;
(e) To raise awareness concerning the importance of promoting and protecting
the right to privacy, including with a view to particular challenges arising in the digital age,
as well as concerning the importance of providing individuals whose right to privacy has
been violated with access to effective remedy, consistent with international human rights
obligations;
(f) To integrate a gender perspective throughout the work of the mandate;
(g) To report on alleged violations, wherever they may occur, of the right to
privacy, as set out in article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article 17
of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, including in connection with the
challenges arising from new technologies, and to draw the attenti on of the Council and the
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to situations of particular ly serious
concern;
(h) To submit an annual report to the Human Rights Council and to the General
Assembly, starting at the thirty -first session and the seventy -first session respectively ;
5. Invites the Special Rapporteur to include in the first report considerations that
the mandate holder finds relevant to address the right to privacy in the digital age;
6. Calls upon all States to cooperate fully with and to assist the Special
Rapporteur in the performance of the mandate, including by providing all necessary
information requested by him or her , to respond promptly to his or her urgent appeals and
other communications, to consider favourably the mandate holder’s requests to visit their
countries and to consider implementing the recommendations made by the mandate holder
in his or her reports;
7. Encourages all relevant stakeholders, including the United Nations and its
agencies, programmes and funds, regi onal human rights mechanisms, national human rights
institutions, civil society and the private sector to cooperate fully with the Special
Rapporteur to enable the mandate holder to fulfil the mandate;
8. Requests the Secretary -General and the High Commiss ioner to provide the
Special Rapporteur with all the human and financial resources necessary for the effective
fulfilment of the mandate ;
9. Decides to continue its consideration of the matter under the same agenda
item.
56 th meeting
26 March 2015
[Adopted without a vote.]

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