Today Friday 03 June is precisely 11 months since I was honoured by my appointment to the role of UN Special Rapporteur for Privacy (SRP). Over these past eleven months I have been engaged in a process of on-going consultation with all types of stakeholders: governments, Privacy & Data Protection Commissioners, Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs), Security & Intelligence Services (SIS), corporations and last but perhaps most of all in terms of the absolute number of entities met with, civil society. These consultations have taken place in open meetings or in closed-door meetings as may have been appropriate in a variety of countries including Australia, Belgium, Brazil, New Zealand, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Switzerland and the USA to name but a few of the countries where I have had on-site meetings since August last year. This over and above a torrent of correspondence and reports monitored in over at least thirty other countries. On some days, as was the case in this morning’s SRP team meeting, my colleagues and myself deal with written requests and reports and planned country visits for anything from three to ten countries.

These consultations will become more and more structured as the months advance with many more stakeholders being invited to participate at different junctures in different ways and more details about modalities will be made public in due course. At this stage however, suffice it to say that the interactions and consultations have led me to at least two important conclusions that I would like to share here:

  1. There are so many things going on, so many risks to privacy present and so much work is required that it is necessary to devote effort on many fronts in parallel. It is not possible to simply content oneself by working on one priority. Instead it is clear that many priorities need to be addressed concurrently;
  2. The first set of five priorities being actively addressed by the SRP mandate are the following:


Each of these Thematic Action Streams (as I call them) is developing a life of its own especially since I have nominated – or am in the process of inviting –  a team leader to head a task force working with or within my mandate with a special focus on each of the streams. Each of these Thematic Action Streams (TAS) is also expected to eventually give rise to a thematic report once the discussion in that stream is mature enough to warrant such a report. We plan to make various announcements over the next several months informing the public as to what is going on and who is doing what. These announcements will be made using a blended approach of formal and informal means. Some will find their way into reports to the Human Rights Council or the General Assembly, others into formal thematic reports while others still will be made using the official SRP web-site as well as this web-site where short up-dates can be made relatively frequently and inexpensively.

For those who wish to follow these developments more closely or indeed participate in the various meetings and consultations, all you have to do is put yourself on the list at indicating your credentials as a stakeholder. Bona fide members of civil society will be invited to various stakeholder meetings as and when appropriate or at minimum (where space and other resources do not permit everybody to be invited to participate personally) be welcome to make written submissions. By subscribing to this list, stakeholders will also be able to participate in events and projects related to privacy but which are not necessarily organised by the SRP but also by independent not-for-profit research projects which may be investigating one or more dimensions of privacy within or outside the first set of priority action streams outlined above. Some events will be focused on one Action Stream while allowing for intersection with other Thematic Action Streams.

It is expected that our first three announcements will invite participation in or give further information about three of the Thematic Action Streams: A better understanding of Privacy, Security and Surveillance as well as Big Data and Open Data. Watch this space.