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UN privacy expert visits UK to assess surveillance laws and use of personal data

GENEVA (15 June 2018) - The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy, Joseph Cannataci, will visit the UK from 18 to 29 June to assess the impact of surveillance legislation and the use of personal data.

“My mission will focus particularly on the 2016 Investigatory Powers Act, and the use of personal data, especially health-related information, by Government agencies and private corporations,” said Mr. Cannataci.

“Bulk interception of communications, and intelligence-sharing practices that may not be proportionate or necessary, will also be investigated,” he added.

Mr. Cannataci will examine safeguards put in place by the Government to ensure that security and intelligence bodies do not violate the right to privacy, including the effectiveness of the new Investigatory Powers Commissioner's Office, as well as parliamentary oversight of their work.

He will also consider the impact of electronic databases, and the Government’s policies on Big Data and Open Data, in preparation for his forthcoming report on the subject to the UN General Assembly.

Throughout his visit, the Special Rapporteur will maintain a strong focus on gender perspectives, as well as privacy issues among minorities and other groups which are often victims of profiling and discrimination.

“I intend to make recommendations that can assist the Government and others to ensure that everyone’s privacy is strongly protected, and to identify best practices that can serve as examples for other countries,” he added.

Mr. Cannataci will hold meetings with public officials, representatives of civil society organisations and academics in London, Edinburgh, Belfast and Cardiff.

The Special Rapporteur will hold a news conference on 29 June 2018 at 13:00 local time to share his preliminary assessment of the situation in the UK. It will be held at the offices of the International Maritime Organisation, 4 Albert Embankment, London, SE1 7SR, in committee room 13. Access to the news conference will be strictly limited to journalists. Please confirm your attendance with the contacts listed below.

Mr. Cannataci will submit a report on his visit to the March 2019 session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.


Mr. Joseph Cannataci (Malta) was appointed as the first Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy by the Human Rights Council in July 2015. He is an academic who has had a pioneering role in the development on data protection, privacy law and technology law. A UK Chartered Information Technology Professional & Fellow of the British Computer Society, he also continues to act as Expert Consultant to a number of international organisations.

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 organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, Country Page – United Kingdom

For more information and press inquiries, please contact:
During the visit: Mr. Jon Izagirre Garcia (+41 79 444 4537; jizagirre@ohchr.org) or srprivacy@ohchr.org

In Geneva (before and after the visit): Mr. Jon Izagirre Garcia (+41 22 917 97 15 / jizagirre@ohchr.org) or srprivacy@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Jeremy Laurence – Media Unit (+41 22 917 9383 / jlaurence@ohchr.org

This year is the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN on 10 December 1948. The Universal Declaration – translated into a world record 500 languages – is rooted in the principle that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” It remains relevant to everyone, every day. In honour of the 70th anniversary of this extraordinarily influential document, and to prevent its vital principles from being eroded, we are urging people everywhere to Stand Up for Human Rightshttp://www.standup4humanrights.org/en/