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The Privacy Advisor | UN To Announce Rapporteur for Privacy Tomorrow, and It's A Surprise Twist Related reading: Mass. weighs in on Equifax: Who else might?

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The United Nation’s Human Rights Council (HRC) will tomorrow announce its appointment for a special rapporteur on the right to privacy. President of the Human Rights Council Joachim Ruecker announced yesterday that the HRC’s Consultative Group ranked first Katrin Nyman-Metcalf of Estonia, though “concerns were raised as to whether she was the best qualified candidate for this specific position.” As such, Ruecker recommends for the job the person whom the Consultative Group ranked second, Joseph Cannataci of Malta, “who has long-standing experience in the field of human rights.” Third in line for the position is Jose-Luis Pinar, former director of the Spanish Agency for Data Protection and vice chairman of the Article 29 Working Party.

The special rapporteur for privacy position is the only one of six mandates being announced tomorrow in which the HRC president did not select the candidate the Consultative Group recommended. Ruecker said in announcing his recommendations that he took in the concerns of “all views conveyed to me from group representatives and states.” Metcalf is a professor and chair of law and technology at Tallinn Law School at the Tallinn University of Technology in Estonia and is head of research at the Estonian e-Governance Academy, where she advises on legal aspects of e-governance, including privacy and data protection, according to her application for the rapporteur position. Ruecker said he spoke with Metcalf about the concerns raised by stakeholders.

Cannataci holds the position of chair of European Information Policy and Technology Law at the University of Groningen in The Netherlands and is head of Information Policy and Governance, Faculty of Media and Knowledge Sciences at the University of Malta. He’s served as expert consultant on privacy, data protection, the Internet and cyber crime for the Council of Europe, the European Commission, UNESCO and other entities, according to an HRC document, which added, “The Consultative Group noted his extensive professional experience in the field of human rights and privacy and his interdisciplinary approach to privacy.”

In the “motivation letter” section of his application, Cannataci said his “interest in, indeed passion for” privacy was nurtured while he was an undergraduate student studying the impact of computer technology on society, which led to his specializing in privacy and data protection law in his doctoral thesis.

“For the past 30 years, I have combined both professional and academic work to dedicate myself almost exclusively to work in the field of privacy and human rights,” Cannataci said. 

He notes his work on privacy not only within a European context but across continents, including with indigenous societies in developing countries.

“As such, therefore, I would like to think that my approach to privacy encompasses those dimensions which are universal as well as those rooted in cultural diversity,” he said. “I would also like to think that my approach is not that of an academic out of touch with reality.” He notes his work with various privacy-related committees, making him “a veteran of inter-governmental bodies who is respected for an ability to achieve consensus when drafting privacy-related legal instruments while still conserving fundamental principles and personal integrity.”

He also noted he did not seek support for any national government or non-governmental organization for the position.

“If selected, I would like to be everybody’s special rapporteur,” he said.

Finally, he noted concern about gender issues, stating the teams he manages are “gender-imbalanced in the sense that they contain three female colleagues for every male. We are especially interested in developing privacy-related rights which may particularly advance the position of women in society.”

The council announced in March its resolution to appoint a special rapporteur for privacy, citing the HRC’s need to remain "actively seized of the debate on the right to privacy in the Digital Age” to clarify principles, standards and best practices; recognizing the need to further analyze, discuss and reaffirm the right to privacy as it relates to international human rights law, including “procedural safeguards, effective domestic oversight and remedies” and the impact of surveillance on the right to privacy and other human rights. Thirty candidates from across the globe applied for the position, including EPIC’s Marc Rotenberg; Dutch DPA Jacob Kohnstamm; former German Data Protection Commissioner Peter Schaar and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati’s Christopher Kuner. Candidates were judged on the basis of expertise in the field of the mandate, independence, impartiality, personal integrity and objectivity.

photo credit: Avenue of Flags at the UN Building via photopin (license)

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