UN OHCHR releases 2022 ‘Right to Privacy in the Digital Age’ Report

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has released its 2022 report on ‘The right to privacy in the digital age‘. The report discusses recent trends and challenges concerning the right to privacy, with a focus on the abuse of ‘intrusive hacking tools’, the importance of encryption, and the monitoring of public spaces. Initially released in August 2022, the report was then formally presented to UN member states during the 51st Session of the Human Rights Council (September – October 2022).

On the surveillance of personal devices and communications, the report highlights the proliferation of spyware tools and cites concerns over government misuse of such devices to suppress freedom of expression and curb media freedom. It then calls for the deployment of such technologies to be limited to occassions when other less intrusive measures have been exhausted and to be ‘strictly limited in scope and duration’.

On encryption, the report was lauded by the Global Encryption Coalition for issuing ‘the strongest indictment . . . against governmental attacks on encryption’ and for its endorsement of the ‘the key role of encryption in ensuring the enjoyment of [human rights]’.

On public surveillance, the report highlights a number of concerning trends including the online monitoring of public discourse and denounced the ‘general monitoring of people in public spaces [as] almost invariably disproportionate’.

Finally, the report issued a number of recommendations for the governance of such technologies and the deployment of such regulatory frameworks in a human-rights respecting manner.