Freedom of expression and privacy are two mutually reinforcing rights, even more so in the digital era. They are among the essential foundations of an open and democratic society, and among the basic conditions for its progress and for each individual’s self-fulfilment.
While privacy is necessary for the meaningful exercise of freedom of expression, particularly online, without freedom of expression, individuals would also be unable to develop their personality and autonomy, which the right to privacy seeks to protect.
At the same time, one person’s exercise of freedom of expression may impinge on another’s right to privacy and vice versa, especially where digital technologies are concerned. While digital technologies are now central to the facilitation of the exercise of freedom of expression and the sharing of information, they can also be a tool for violations of the right to privacy.
Digital tools can present serious challenges to the enforcement of the right to privacy, and related rights, as personal information can be collected and made available across borders on an unprecedented scale, and at minimal cost. Meanwhile, the application of data protection law and other measures to protect the right to privacy can have a disproportionate impact on the exercise of freedom of expression.
These draft Principles on the protection of freedom of expression and privacy were developed to address these issues. The draft Principles are based on international law and best practices from around the world, as reflected, inter alia, in national laws and the judgments of national courts. Traditionally, the relevant norms and principles for the protection of freedom of expression and privacy have arisen in different contexts: as a result, they have been scattered around different areas of law.
These principles will provide a one-stop-shop, where key issues concerning the intersection between these two rights are addressed.
The draft Principles were developed together with a Steering Committee, including ARTICLE 19, the Centre for Internet & Society-India, Derechos Digitales, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Electronic Privacy Information Centre, the Kenya ICT Action Network, OpenNet Kora, Privacy International and Tactical Tech. They also benefited from the comments of international experts on freedom of expression, media, privacy, data protection and digital rights, who were convened by ARTICLE 19 in San Francisco at the end of March 2016. Whilst this initial process, ARTICLE 19 retains sole responsibility for the content of the draft Principles.
The draft Principles are now open for public consultation between June – August 2016. Based on feedback received, the final version will be launched in December 2016.
We hope that the Principles will be broadly adopted by organisations around the world. We also hope that they will be used in national, regional and international advocacy to improve the protection of freedom of expression in this complex area.