The mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur for Privacy (SRP)  & the EU-supported MAPPING project  are collaborating to organise a structured public consultation about new legal measures at international law intended to improve the protection of privacy in this age of ubiquitous surveillance.

Prior to appointment to his UN role, and concurrently ever since he came into post, together with a number of other colleagues, the SRP launched the MAPPING project in March 2014 and has also co-ordinated that project since inception. MAPPING has been working with a wide variety of stakeholders in order to, amongst other objectives, identify principles about government surveillance activities which may need to be dealt with at the level of international law. This has led to the MAPPING Project developing and drafting a legal instrument which can be used for a wide range of purposes, whether to produce soft law such as a recommendation  and thus serve as a model for domestic law on the subject or even hard law through a multilateral international treaty on surveillance.

The eventual possible use at UN level of a draft legal instrument on surveillance was mentioned by Professor Joe Cannataci in his capacity as UN Special Rapporteur for Privacy in his annual report  to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on 07 March 2017.

This report has received considerable international attention and, in response to the overwhelmingly positive reception to the idea of such a legal instrument, the SRP has, throughout March, April and May 2017, carried out further extensive, confidential informal consultations world-wide about the thrust of the text and especially his mention of an International panel of judges and an International Data Access Warrant. These and other measures contemplated within the draft text developed in the MAPPING Project have been discussed and developed further during a series of behind-closed doors meetings during 2016-2017 in order to prepare a text which is mature enough to be launched for a wider public consultation.

The UN SRP and the Steering Committee of the MAPPING Project have now agreed on the following course of joint action in exploring this subject further:


Further development of the draft text at expert group level

A working group composed of experts from civil society, the MAPPING Project and major internet corporations will meet again in Paris, France on 13-14 September 2017 in order to continue working on the text. To keep the drafting process manageable, participation in this meeting will be limited to the meeting-room capacity.  Any experts on privacy and surveillance who are willing and able to contribute to this meeting should contact Aukje Snijders on . These requests would be considered on criteria including area of expertise, geographical representation and existing stakeholder presence in the working group. Those participating in this meeting will receive, in confidence, a copy of the current version of the draft text and would be expected to provide, in writing at the earliest opportunity, and no later than  15th July 2017, any comments and proposals for amendment. This would enable the MAPPING and UN SRP co-ordination teams to consolidate all comments received by 15th July 2017 into a discussion text which would be circulated to participants in the Paris meeting by 31st July 2017.

It is our intention to then take the outcome of the Paris meeting in September and circulate it to the participants of the International Intelligence Oversight Forum – IIOF2018 – co-organised by the UN SRP, the Belgian Data Protection Authority and the MAPPING Project, for their observations and consideration during their meeting in Brussels 20-21 November 2017.


Public consultation stage – SAVE THE DATES 18-22 December 2017 & 17-19 January 2018

The draft text as amended to end November 2017 is expected to be made available on-line in early December 2017 in time for:

  1. A web-cast Round Table discussion during the Internet Governance Forum 2017 held in Geneva 19-22 December co-organised by the UN SRP and the MAPPING Project (TBC – currently short-listed for inclusion in the IGF2017 programme),
  2. an open discussion in Rome during the special MAPPING SURVEILLANCE Stakeholder Consultation session scheduled for 17-18-19 January 2018,
  3. further discussion, taking into account the outcome of the Rome meeting, with more amendments, possibly being added during the MAPPING Final General Assembly to be held in Malta on 12-14 February 2018.


All those individuals, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), corporations and other stakeholders who wish to be invited to participate in any of the above public discussions should e-mail their requests to at the earliest opportunity and no later than 10th September 2017. This would help determine the size of the meeting rooms booked in advance for such events. The capacity of the meeting rooms in Rome and Malta are expected to be limited to 150-300 so expressions of interest will be dealt with on a first-come, first-served basis with additional consideration on criteria including area of expertise, geographical representation and existing stakeholder presence in the public event.



Expected Outcomes


If the reactions received continue to be overall positive, it is the intention of the UN SRP and the Steering Committee of the MAPPING Project to present, as is appropriate to their respective capacities:

  1. a draft Legal Instrument on Surveillance to the European Commission as part of a roadmap for engagement by the EU with the global process of internet governance




  1. a similar or complementary draft legal instrument to the UN Human Rights Council and/or the UN General Assembly with a specific recommendation that this be taken forward for consideration for study and eventual adoption in one form or another by the United Nations.

The UN SRP and the MAPPING Project look forward to welcoming a number of requests for participation and thank all involved for their contribution to this important development and consultation process.