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Promotion and Protection of the Right to Privacy
September 12, 2014

Intervention of the United States at the Panel Discussion on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Privacy in the Digital Age
As Delivered by David Sullivan
Friday, September 12, 2014

The United States thanks the former High Commissioner for her work on this issue.  We welcome this panel discussion and other recent events under the Council’s auspices.

We believe it is important to keep several principles in mind as we engage in these discussions.  First, the foundation for this discussion must be the text of Article 17 of the ICCPR.  The United States encourages discussion of those limiting principles expressly stated in Article 17 – namely, legality and arbitrariness.  With this in mind, we would be interested in the panelists’ views on effective oversight of surveillance programs; on how to encourage transparency while recognizing the need for secrecy in some instances; and on the legitimate reasons for collecting and sharing information.  We also welcome discussion of the meaningful distinctions and implications for privacy between collection of data and use of data, as well as between use of meta-data versus content, a topic which others have already touched on today.

Second, we agree that the privacy concerns of all individuals should be taken into consideration, regardless of nationality.  However, many nations make legal distinctions between nationals and non-nationals in a variety of circumstances.  When it comes to signals intelligence, we are exploring how to apply privacy protections enjoyed by U.S. persons to non-U.S. persons abroad.  It is important to note that we are considering these steps as a matter of policy and that we have significant concerns regarding the expansive views expressed in the Report on the extraterritorial application of the ICCPR.

Finally, it is important to keep in mind the principle, affirmed by the Human Rights Council, that the rights that people have offline must also be protected online.  Although technological developments deserve particular attention, discussions of privacy have implications both online and offline.  Therefore, ongoing work on privacy should take account of the various ways it is protected and infringed upon around the world, not simply in the context of surveillance.

We look forward to engaging in these discussions.