International Privacy Standards

As the Internet grows, so too do concerns about privacy and confidentiality. Many countries and organizations are looking at legal and technical approaches to privacy protection for the global information infrastructure.

Important International Documents

  • Draft COE Declaration on Freedom of Communication on the Internet. November 29, 2002.
  • Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that " No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks."
  • The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights also includes a provision for privacy protection similar to the article in the Universal Declaration.
  • The OECD Guidelines is one of the primary documents for international privacy protection. The Guidelines were set out in 1981 and concern primarily stored data. For more information, see EPIC: OECD Releases Updated Guidelines.
  • The Council of Europe Convention is another European approach to privacy protection from 1981. Its requirements are binding on all signatory countries. See Also EPIC: Council of European Privacy Convention.
  • The EC Data Protection Directive is the current focus of privacy discussion in Europe. The directive attempts to harmonize the various national privacy laws in Europe to promote European-wide commerce. The current version is likely to undergo further changes before it is finally adopted by the European Community.
  • The UN Resolution on Surveillance was adopted in December 2013, in light of the Snowden disclosures, unanimously recognizing online privacy as a fundamental right. The resolution called on member states to adopt laws and procedures that comport with international law, emphasizing that "the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, including the right to privacy."
  • In November 2013, the European Union Adopted a resolution on Internet Freedom, identifying central pillars of that freedom which included promoting the accessibility and openness of the Internet and the privacy rights of Internet users.
  • In 2012, the EU began considering a draft proposal to comprehensively update the 1995 General Data Protection Regulation. In October 2013, the European Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) voted to adopt a revised draft which contains new regulations on private use of personal data and law enforcement use of personal data. The draft, which seeks to protect the “fundamental right[]… to the protection of personal data,” now must be passed by the European Parliament to become law. See Also EPIC: EU Data Protection Directive.
  • In December 2012, Jan Phillip Albrecht, a German Member of the European Parliament, rappeteur of the LIBE Committee, and a prominent privacy advocate, released a report proposing amendments to the 2012 Data Protection Regulation.
  • In February 2014, British European Parliament Member Claude Moraes released a report on government surveillance by the United States and EU member states and the effect of these programs on citizens’ fundamental rights.


  • Privacy International maintains a privacy archive of international materials on privacy protection, including laws, treaties, country reports, and proposed standards.
  • EPIC offers a comprehensive guide to privacy resources including organizations, publications, net publications, and other material.

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