Joint Statement on Data Protection and Privacy in the COVID-19 Response

Geneva – A Joint Statement on Data Protection and Privacy in the COVID-19 response was issued today after endorsement by the undersigned UN System Organizations. Developed by the UN Privacy Policy Group, an inter-agency group on data privacy and data protection, the statement supports the privacy protective use of data and technology by the UN in fighting the current pandemic.

The joint statement is based on the UN Personal Data Protection and Privacy Principles as well as the recommendations in the Secretary-General’s Data Strategy on data protection, privacy, and human rights.

“We can only defeat Covid-19 with trust, science and solidarity. With the Joint Statement, the UN reinforces its commitment to using data and new technologies in ways that respect the right to privacy and other human rights and promote sustainable economic and social development. As we continue our work to implement the Secretary-General’s Data Strategy, this statement clarifies how the UN Principles on Data Protection and Privacy can be applied in the context of Covid-19.” said Robert Kirkpatrick, Director of UN Global Pulse and a co-chair of the UN Privacy Policy Group.

“During public health emergencies, data collection, processing, and use must protect the rights of all people. WHO has issued guidance on the use of digital tools for contact tracing and ethical considerations to inform digital proximity tracking and continues to update its work on data governance and sharing. This Joint Statement should serve as a reference for data protection and privacy in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. WHO is proud to join with other UN System Organizations and looks forward to continue creating a data governance ecosystem that protects the rights to privacy” said Dr. Samira Asma, Assistant Director -General, Division of Data Analytics and Delivery, World Health Organization.

“This statement raises awareness regarding both the benefits and the challenges that data and technology practices may entail during an emergency response. It is meant as guidance to ensure that fundamental human rights and freedoms are preserved, both during and once this pandemic has passed.” noted Mr. Patrick Carey, Acting Assistant Secretary-General, Office of Information and Communications Technology and a co-chair of the UN Privacy Policy Group and the UN System’s Digital and Technology Network.