Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy


The Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy is one of the thematic special procedures overseen by the United Nations Human Rights Council. The Special Rapporteur promotes the right to privacy by collecting and reviewing information regarding trends, developments, national practices, and challenges pertaining to the right to privacy in order to make recommendations to ensure its protection. The Special Rapporteur works to identify obstacles to the promotion of the right to privacy, develops and promotes best practices, reports alleged violations, and raises awareness of the right, keeping in mind the influence of new technologies. This is particularly crucial in the Digital Age.

The Special Rapporteur must apply a gender perspective throughout the work of their mandate.


The mandate of the Special Rapporteur lasts for a period of three years and is filled by one highly qualified individual.

The UN Human Rights Council established the Special Rapporteurship in 2015 with Resolution 28/16. In fulfilling the mandate, the Special Rapporteur makes country visits, reviews complaints, and reports annually to the UN General Assembly and Human Rights Council.

Country Visits

One important function of the Special Rapporteur is to conduct country visits. Country visits allow the Special Rapporteur to examine the state of human rights with respect to privacy in that country. The Special Rapporteur then reports the findings to the Human Rights Council and proposes ways in which the right to privacy can be better protected in the visited nation.

A list of requests for country visits can be viewed on the Special Rapporteur’s webpage.

More than 100 countries have extended standing invitations to country visits by all thematic special procedures. View the list of countries that have extended standing invitations here.

Receiving Information & Complaints

The Special Rapporteur receives information and complaints regarding alleged violations of the right to privacy. Anyone – including governments, non-governmental organizations, and other stakeholders – with knowledge of a violation can submit information. The Special Rapporteur is particularly interested in information concerning: surveillance or interception of communications (especially on a mass scale), the retention and use of personal data, the use of forensic DNA databases, and the use of Open and Big Data.

When information is received, the Special Rapporteur first confirms that it falls within the mandate and works to verify its authenticity. Next, the Special Rapporteur brings the alleged violations to the attention of the State involved in the allegation through a “communication.” Communications may request clarification from the State or request that the State investigate, prevent, or remedy the violations. Communications can come in one of two forms – allegation letters or urgent appeals.

Allegation Letters

Generally, the Special Rapporteur sends an allegation letter to a State when the alleged violation has already occurred, relates to a general pattern of violations, or is not so pressing as to warrant the issuance of an urgent appeal. An allegation letter generally contains a request for the government to clarify the substance of the allegation and to forward any information related to the allegation to the Special Rapporteur.

Urgent Appeals

Urgent appeals are reserved for cases in which sufficient information is available to suggest that a person’s right to privacy may be violated and that the situation is time sensitive, such that failure to act in a timely manner could result in grave harm. The Special Rapporteur sends urgent appeals to the governments of States where individuals or groups are facing such threats and an allegation letter is unlikely to address the situation in a timely enough manner.

Reports to the UN General Assembly and Human Rights Council

The Special Rapporteur reports annually to the UN General Assembly and Human Rights Council on all activities related to its mandate. These reports, along with a list of the Special Rapporteur’s planned thematic reports, are available on the Special Rapporteur’s webpage.


Complaints should be submitted to the Special Rapporteur via the online submission form, or email to the following address: [email protected]. The submission should contain the name and contact information of the individual submitting the complaint, the violation(s), and the relevant country. The submission should also include the following information in the online submission form or in a one-page attachment to an email (in English or French):

  • Where the alleged violation(s) took place (country and city)
  • When the alleged violation(s) took place (specific date(s))
  • Who the alleged victims are (including their full names, genders, the types of activities undertaken, and whether they consent to having their identities disclosed to relevant authorities and published in a public report)
  • Who the alleged perpetrators are (if known)
  • For non-State actors, a description of how the alleged perpetrators relate to the State
  • An account of what happened (a brief but detailed description)
  • The current situation
  • Actions taken in response to the violation(s) (including reports made to relevant authorities)
  • For alleged violations concerning a draft bill, law, or regulation, include:
    • An electronic copy of the draft bill, law, or regulation in question
    • An analysis of the problematic provisions
    • For a bill, a summary of the process by which it could become a law and where it is in the process
    • For a law, a summary of if and how it has been implemented

After submitting a complaint, it is important to keep the Special Rapporteur up-to-date on any developments in the case.

The Special Rapporteur may also be contacted by:

  • Mail:

Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy
c/o Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Palais Wilson
Rue des Paquis, 52
1201 Geneva

  • Fax: +41 22 917 90 06