Technology & Innovation |
The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Privacy

UN Special Rapporteur's Sydney consultation seeks views on protecting privacy in the digital age

UN Special Rapporteur’s Sydney consultation seeks views on
protecting privacy in the digital age

The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Privacy will seek feedback on how to integrate the protection of privacy with innovation in the information economy, during an international conference to be held in Sydney on 26 and 27 July 2018.

While Big Data and Open Data promise new insights into big issues, such as climate change, and public health and safety, recent cases highlight the risks of unjustified intrusion into the private sphere and the breakdown of privacy protections.

In Australia, these include a case where the Department of Health was found to have breached privacy laws by publishing Medicare and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme data that could be re-identified by linking parts of the record with known information about the person, such as medical procedure and year of birth.

In the two-day consultation in Sydney, UN Special Rapporteur on Right to Privacy, Professor Joe Cannataci, will consult on the preliminary conclusions of a report delivered to the UN General Assembly in 2017.

The consultation will shape the recommendations for the final report to be presented to the General Assembly in October 2018. It will consider how to address the challenges posed by modern data analytics, including de-identification methodologies for facilitating data analytics using personal information.

The treatment of human rights and privacy protection in Australia is high on the Special Rapporteur’s agenda. Professor Cannataci says “The essential question is 'How should countries find an acceptable balance between the use of data for social and economic goals while protecting individual rights and the general public good provided by privacy?’”. 

Ultimately, the consultation seeks to identify practices that better meet the needs of individuals, communities as well as governments and business. These standards would provide vital inputs into national domestic laws, as well as international instruments.

This consultation provides a substantial step for the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Privacy to help Member States, and to advance the protection of a most fundamental human right – the right to privacy in the digital era.

The International Consultation will be held on Thursday 26 July and Friday 27 July at UNSW Sydney CBD Campus, 1 O’Connell Street, Sydney.

To view the program and register your attendance, visit the webpage:

Media Contact:

Gabrielle Dunlevy, Australian Human Rights Institute, UNSW Sydney: +61 423 972 801

Elizabeth Coombs: +61 409 048 477

Note to editors:

The event is being supported by UNSW Sydney, Optus Macquarie University Cyber Security Hub, University of Technology Sydney, and the Australian Human Rights Commission. Within UNSW Sydney, support has been provided by the Allens Hub for Technology, Law and Innovation, the Australian Human Rights Institute, Grand Challenges, the Faculties/Schools of Built Environment, Computing Science and Engineering, Law, Mathematics, and Social Sciences.


What is big data?

Big Data analytics techniques enables individuals to become knowable to unknown others through the analysis of their data. Big Data is a term that describes the large and increasing volume of data and the advanced analytic techniques used to search, correlate, analyse and draw conclusions from it.

What is open data?

Open data has gained popularity along with Big Data. It seeks to have private and public sectors publicly release data to encourage transparency and openness, particularly in government. Open Data and Open Government were intended to provide access to data about government and the world in which we live.

Who should attend this consultation?

This is an opportunity for the public and private sectors and those with interests in the data economy, whether as public policy and decision makers, educators, commercial service providers, data brokers, academics, researchers, regulators and legislators.