Table of Contents
United Nations Human Rights Instruments
Each of the United Nations instruments listed below includes a provision recognizing the right to privacy.
- Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The Declaration was proclaimed by the U.N. General Assembly in 1948. The right to privacy is enshrined in Article 12. Although the Declaration is not legally binding, many of its principles have been incorporated in international treaties, regional human rights instruments, and national constitutions.
- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966)
More than 160 countries are state parties to this multilateral treaty. Article 17 recognizes the right to privacy.
Council of Europe Treaties
The Council of Europe is one of several regional organizations established in the aftermath of World War II. It is separate and distinct from the European Union and has a much larger membership than the EU. The Council’s core mission is the protection of human rights, but it also works to promote democracy, the rule of law, and uniform standards. Much of the Council’s work is accomplished through the drafting of treaties. Below is a selection of major Council of Europe treaties related to data protection and privacy.
- Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (1950)
Also known as the European Convention on Human Rights. Article 8 of the Convention recognizes the right to privacy. The European Court of Human Rights (see below) is responsible for monitoring compliance with the Convention.
- Convention for Protection of Individuals with Regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data (1981)
The Convention, which entered into force in 1985, is the first legally binding international instrument on data protection and is open to signature by countries that are not members of the Council of Europe.
- Additional Protocol to the Convention for the Protection of Individuals with Regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data, Regarding Supervisory Authorities and Transborder Data Flows (2001)
The additional protocol provides for the establishment of national data protection authorities to monitor compliance with laws adopted pursuant to the original Convention and regulates the transmission of data across national boundaries.
- Protocol Amending the Convention for Protection of Individuals with Regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data (2018)*
This protocol is intended to modernize and improve the original 1981 convention by taking into account the challenges posed by the new forms of information and communications technology that have emerged during the ensuing decades. *Note: The protocol has not yet entered into force.
European Court of Human Rights Case Law
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) is responsible for ensuring that the state parties to the European Convention on Human Rights comply with their obligations under the Convention, including Article 8, which recognizes the right to privacy. Listed below are the most convenient access points to the Court’s jurisprudence on the right to privacy.
- ECHR Fact Sheet on Personal Data Protection
This fact sheet contains summaries of judgments issued by the ECHR in dozens of cases involving data protection and the right to privacy, with links to the full text.
- ECHR Fact Sheet on New Technologies
This fact sheet contains summaries of judgments issued by the ECHR in dozens of cases involving new technologies and the right to privacy., with links to the full text.
- HUDOC Case Law Database
Use this official, free database of ECHR case law to search by keyword for judgments issued in cases involving the right to privacy with respect to data protection and/or the use of emerging technologies.