Here's looking at you/he/she/they! The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy looks at gender and personality.

Joanne D'Cunha


  • Background: The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy is exploring the importance of the right to privacy specifically its enjoyment based on gender and personality (read to include sexual orientation, gender identity/expression). It has put out a call for feedback on a report created on this issue and a consultation it intend to have at the end of October.
  • IFF gets on board: To contribute to the report and the consultation, IFF submits a few of its concerns and recommendations on privacy and gender and personality based on the work it does.


The report the Taskforce created analyses submissions and research on the varying impact of privacy on individuals with different orientations, genders, sexuality etc. This report was circulated to receive feedback from various stakeholders across the public and private sectors of Member States, human rights institutions, NGOs, individuals, civil society and researchers in order to conduct an international public consultation.

The consultation looks to check if gender based issues that arise in the digital era have a distinct impact on the existing right to privacy as we as individuals understand it. India is growing in its exposure and awareness to gender/personality matters and we hope that there has been sufficient representation of these issues such as the newly introduced Transgender bill etc., in this consultation by various organisations deeply involved and with greater expertise. IFF is privileged to have had the opportunity to share our comments and recommendations on the reportin addressing increasingly significant concerns based on our learnings in our line of work.

Our Concerns

We cover aspects of the report that complement IFF’s core areas of work in this field of digital rights and would prove useful in understanding the Indian landscape with regard to privacy. Here are brief pointers of a few concerns we highlighted.

  • Imbalance in accountability: The need for smaller platforms to be more 'woke' in their approach toward addressing content that is abusive/discriminatory based on gender, caste, orientations considering the sectional diversity of India.
  • In the guise of women's safety: Although done with the claim to increase the security of women, we highlight how large scale deployment of CCTVs combined with Automated Facial Recognition Systems is dangerous with no data protection law in place; especially pointing out the amplification of existing bias that such surveillance systems bring about.
  • Unknown and unchecked software: In light of the Chinmayanand scandal (Read about it here), the use of an application to secretly film an individual has seen the light of day. We express concern about the use of such unknown applications used to target unsuspecting individuals that do not conform to India conservative societal norms.
  • Community data: As the current atmosphere begs the need to demonstrate worries with this concept, we inform that the understanding of community data includes data that is anonymised or e-commerce data. This indicates that this type of data is irrelevant data, which is an incredibly incorrect assumption. If anonymised data can be re-identified and put to use, our submission emphasizes that publicly available data can most definitely be damaging; and with sufficient access and manipulation can once again attack minorities of both class and otherwise with the current raging biases in India.

Our two-cents

Although we provide recommendations for each of our concerns, our broader suggestions largely focused on engaging with local groups to gain perspective on the impact of privacy on individuals from different walks of life. This conversation is extremely necessary to inform work being done by the UN Special Rapporteur as most groups lack capacity to contribute to such formal processes.

We are appreciative of this initiative by the Office of UN Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy taskforce and we hope that our submission has contributed a better understanding of these issues.

Links to important documents

  • Submission to the UN Special Rapporeur on the right to privacy (link).

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