The UN Special Rapporteur: Advancing a Global Privacy Treaty?

(2015) 136 Privacy Laws & Business International Report, 7-9

UNSW Law Research Paper No. 2015-69

5 Pages Posted: 13 Oct 2015 Last revised: 14 Nov 2015

Date Written: August 1, 2015


The Human Rights Council of the United Nations In July 2015 appointed Mr Joseph Cannataci, as the first holder of a new position, Special Rapporteur on the Right of Privacy. The appointment follows a UN General Assembly resolution in 2014 in response to the revelations by Edward Snowden in 2013. The appointment raises questions of what roles (if any) the Rapporteur could play in advancing the development of a global privacy treaty.

This article argues that global privacy standards are developing from the ‘bottom up,’ with 109 countries having now enacted data privacy laws, more than half of them from outside Europe. The standards embodied in those laws show that the world is ‘voting with its feet’ for data privacy laws with moderate ‘European’ standards.

In contrast, a formal international instrument (or ‘top-down’ standard) has been slow to emerge. However, Council of Europe (CoE) data protection Convention 108 (together with its 2001 Additional Protocol) appears to be the best (perhaps the only) prospect for a global agreement.

The article concludes that the Rapporteur could consider recommending five steps which would enable the UN and the Council of Europe to coordinate both their existing privacy-related instruments, and their institutions, so as to create an effective global privacy treaty.

Keywords: privacy, data protection, UN, United Nations, Special Rapporteur, Council of Europe, Convention 108, ICCPR

Suggested Citation

Greenleaf, Graham, The UN Special Rapporteur: Advancing a Global Privacy Treaty? (August 1, 2015). (2015) 136 Privacy Laws & Business International Report, 7-9, UNSW Law Research Paper No. 2015-69, Available at SSRN:

Graham Greenleaf (Contact Author)

Independent Scholar ( email )



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