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Recognizing privacy in support of other fundamental rights

Launching the Global Privacy Assembly’s inaugural Privacy and Human Rights Award

The following is an article by Privacy Commissioner of Canada Philippe Dufresne that was published in the Global Privacy Assembly’s May 2024 newsletter.

This year, almost half of the world’s population will be participating in national elections. In this context, it is timely for us as members of the Global Privacy Assembly (GPA) to highlight the role that privacy plays in protecting and upholding democratic processes.

The recognition and protection of privacy as a fundamental right underscores the importance of the GPA’s Data Protection and Other Rights and Freedom (DPORF) Working Group. I share this commitment and it is an honour for me to Chair the DPORF Working Group and further the acknowledgement that privacy is not just a fundamental right, but that it critically underpins the protection and recognition of all other human rights.

As the GPA noted in the 2019 resolution, privacy is a precondition for citizens’ other freedoms as well as a keystone right for democracy.

As Privacy Commissioner of Canada, I am continuing to advance the work of the GPA DPORF Working Group both in Canada, as well as internationally. In Canada, I have been championing the recognition of privacy as a fundamental right in our existing federal privacy legislation, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act and the Privacy Act. This is essential to ensure that the privacy protections of individuals are not overshadowed when they are assessed against potentially competing economic interests.

This past December, as DPORF Chair and with the support the Working Group, I issued a joint statement with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Privacy, Dr. Ana Brian Nougrères, on Privacy and Democratic Rights. This statement showcases the role that privacy and data protection play in upholding democratic rights and freedoms, and why this must be so strongly protected.

When I was appointed as Canada’s Privacy Commissioner almost two years ago, in June 2022, the first pillar of my vision for privacy, consistent with the work of the GPA, was that privacy is a fundamental right. This pillar has continued to underpin my work as Commissioner, driving my Office’s new three-year strategic plan, as well as my broader engagement in the global privacy community.

The right to privacy underpins the personal flourishing and development of individuals as citizens, as well as their ability to exercise social and political freedoms and to participate in democratic processes. Privacy is a key protection from undue influence and manipulation of individuals and is important to protect open, equitable democratic processes.

Data protection authorities play a critical role alongside others, including legislators, political parties, digital platforms and other regulators, to work together to support the protection of these interconnected rights.

The DPORF Working Group provides a key contribution to the GPA Strategic Plan. Building on the resolution that was adopted at the 45th GPA in Bermuda last October, the Working Group is preparing to launch the GPA’s inaugural Privacy and Human Rights Award to help elevate the GPA’s influence as a global leader in privacy and data protection by recognizing the work that others in the broader privacy community are doing to further this cause.

With deep appreciation for the efforts of our colleagues on the Working Group, I am pleased to share that the GPA’s inaugural Privacy and Human Rights Award will be officially launched in June, with the nomination period open through the end of August.

The Award will celebrate exemplary work by an organization to promote and protect privacy and other fundamental rights. Courtesy of Access Now, the selected award recipient will attend the 2025 RightsCon Conference, where they will be officially recognized in front of a global audience of privacy and human rights advocates and celebrated for their achievements.

I believe that this award is a positive step towards advancing the GPA’s mission of recognizing and elevating privacy discourse and I look forward to the opportunity to celebrate the work of other organizations to champion privacy and other fundamental rights.

Global participation in this award process is important to share the news widely and reach those who are most deserving of recognition. I look forward to your support in promoting this award and to seeing the nominations of the incredible work that is being done to champion privacy and other fundamental rights around the world.

Protecting privacy is one of the paramount challenges of our time. Like all of you, I am committed to doing my part, through strong advocacy, education, promotion, and enforcement. This is a collective effort that relies on many voices, and a wide spectrum of representation, to ensure that our message and themes remain as universal as possible.

I thank you for your support and continued work to protect and uphold privacy as a fundamental right around the world.

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