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Ambassador Cousens on Right to Privacy in Digital Age

Ambassador Cousens on Right to Privacy in Digital Age

United States Mission to the United Nations
Ambassador Elizabeth Cousens
U.S. Representative to the UN Economic and Social Council
New York, NY
November 26, 2013


Explanation of Position for the Third Committee Resolution on the Right To Privacy in the Digital Age by Ambassador Elizabeth Cousens, U.S. Representative to the UN Economic and Social Council,

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

The United States appreciates the efforts of Germany and Brazil, and we are pleased to have joined consensus on today’s resolution because the human rights it reaffirms – privacy rights and the right to freedom of expression as set forth in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (the ICCPR) and protected under the U.S. Constitution and U.S. laws – are pillars of our democracy.

We take this opportunity to reaffirm those human rights instruments that we have long affirmed, in particular the ICCPR, understanding this resolution to be focused on State action and consistent with longstanding U.S. views regarding the ICCPR, including Articles 2, 17, and 19. The United States has long championed these rights domestically and internationally, and as we have said before, we firmly believe that privacy rights and the right to freedom of expression must be respected both online and offline, as demonstrated by our cosponsorship of a resolution on this topic at the Human Rights Council.

In some cases, conduct that violates privacy rights may also seriously impede or even prevent the exercise of freedom of expression, but conduct that violates privacy rights does not violate the right to freedom of expression in every case. The United States remains firmly committed to working with all States to promote freedom of expression and privacy online. And we applaud this resolution’s recognition that full respect for the right to freedom of expression requires respect for the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information.

Mr. Chairman, human rights defenders, civil society activists, and ordinary citizens the world over are using the Internet and online resources in new and innovative ways, to protect human dignity, fight against repression, and hold governments – including mine – accountable. It is imperative that they can use these tools freely without inappropriate censorship and fear of reprisals, to continue their vital work to protect and promote human rights worldwide. Thank you.


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