ICANN58 - Cross Community Discussion with Data Protection Commissioners

13 March 2017, Copenhagen



The Council of Europe is an international organisation based on the protection and promotion of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. It currently comprises 47 member states, covering approximately 820 million people. It is completely distinct from the European Union, although all EU members are also member States of the Council of Europe.

The European Court of Human Rights is one of our well-known institutions. It is a unique judicial mechanism: in Strasbourg, individuals can lodge complaints against the signatory States for alleged violation of the European Convention on Human Rights. We furthermore propose over 200 other Conventions, all striving to uphold our fundamental values. Our action is threefold: we set standards, we monitor their implementation, and we provide assistance in implementing them.

It was in this spirit that the Council of Europe requested observer status within the GAC in 2010 and is carrying out its activities in the group since then. The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe issued a declaration on ICANN, human rights and the rule of law in 2015. In this it reconfirmed that its “Member States have a primary legal and political obligation to protect human rights as enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights (…) it includes the right to freedom of expression and access to information, the freedom of assembly and association, and the right to private and family life, (…) and also includes the protection of personal data as safeguarded by the Convention 108.” It furthermore reiterated that “Member States have the obligation to protect society and individuals against crime and to uphold the rule of law on the Internet. In certain criminal investigations, criminal justice authorities need to secure evidence on computer systems and to identify offenders, subject to the conditions and safeguards providing for the adequate protection of human rights pursuant to Article 15 of the Convention on Cybercrime.”

The standards of the Data Protection Convention and of the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime – which are two Conventions currently applicable to 50 Parties, including non-European countries, are not mere abstract concepts. They offer practical guidance and should be of direct relevance to ICANN. The Guidance Note on the production of subscriber information that has just been adopted by the Cybercrime Convention Committee is the most recent example. Direct contributions to the work of ICANN include the 2014 report on “ICANN’s procedures and policies in the light of human rights, fundamental freedoms and democratic values” as well as more recently, a report on ‘applications to ICANN for community-based new gTLDs, and today, facilitating this discussion.

The Council of Europe always had a comprehensive approach, aiming at the protection of both the human rights and the rule of law. In our modern world privacy and security are part of the same equation. They are not competing interests. One cannot operate a business without the sufficient trust from their costumers and no one wants to use a service which is unsafe.

Let me thank the ICANN communities and the organisation itself for contributing to this already unique exercise. I am more than sure that this event will provide a series of benefits to all parties involved, ranging from a better mutual understanding, a facilitated contact and engagement and the start of an inclusive dialogue on the underlying issues. 

I wish you a successful discussion.