IGF 2021 Parliamentary Track: Privacy rights and legitimate uses of personal data

Strabourg 8 October 2021
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IGF 2021 Parliamentary Track: Privacy rights and legitimate uses of personal data

Privacy is a fundamental human right, recognised in all international instruments and the right to privacy is an expression of human dignity and is linked to the protection of human autonomy and personal identity.

On the other hand, public and private entities alike are requesting personal data for the provision of digital services or to protect the public interest (in particular public safety or security). In many instances also, data are being collected and processed without people being (completely) aware of it. Search engines, for instance, rely on information about online behaviour for customised advertising and surveillance tools – as the recent Pegasus revelations have shown – are increasingly used outside of rule of law frameworks.

How do we deal with such challenges and ensure that privacy and data protection are safeguarded as core human rights? What are the roles of responsibilities of state and non-state actors, and how do we hold them accountable? How do we determine when the processing of personal data is indeed needed for legitimate purposes? How do we avoid, identify and adequately address abuses in the collection and processing of data by both private and public entities?

While some countries around the world are putting in place stricter laws and regulations to tackle at least some of these challenges, the reality is that there is still a patchwork of different legal approaches to protecting privacy and personal data. How do they work together in the framework of a borderless digital space? What is still missing?

These are some of the questions that were addressed in the second preparatory session of the IGF 2021 parliamentary track on 7 October. Members of parliaments first heard from representatives of an intergovernmental organisation and a private company about current challenges and approaches to protecting privacy and personal data. This dialogue was then followed by an exchange of experiences on how different jurisdictions tackle privacy protection in the digital space, and a discussion on the challenges of enforcing laws and regulations.