Explanation of Position on a Third Committee Resolution on the Right to Privacy in the Digital Age

Sofija Korac
U.S. Adviser to the Third Committee
New York, New York
November 4, 2022


The United States appreciates the efforts of Germany and Brazil on this resolution. We join consensus today because it reaffirms crucial privacy rights, as well as their importance for the exercise of the rights to freedoms of opinion, expression, peaceful assembly, and association. These rights, as set forth in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and protected under the U.S. Constitution and U.S. laws, are pillars of democracy in the United States and globally.

The United States stands firm in its commitment to the promotion and protection of Human Rights Defenders (HRDs). In particular, we recognize that the threats HRDs face are multifaceted and complex, often taking place online and offline. We look forward to continued engagement with partners on addressing the unlawful and arbitrary use of surveillance technologies to target and censor HRDs, journalists, and other members of civil society.

We understand this resolution to be consistent with longstanding U.S. views regarding the ICCPR and interpret it accordingly. In this regard, we reiterate that the appropriate standard under Article 17 of the ICCPR as to whether a State’s interference with privacy is impermissible is whether it is unlawful or arbitrary; we welcome the resolution’s reference to this standard. While the resolution references the principles of necessity and proportionality, we note that Article 17 does not impose such a standard and Parties to the Covenant are not obligated to take such principles into account in implementing their obligations under Article 17.

We hope that further work on this topic, including the work of the Special Rapporteur, can touch on other areas relating to privacy rights, including the misuse of surveillance technologies to track perceived critics and enable political repression.