The United Nations Human Rights Council’s decision to establish a new Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy is a welcome move towards greater protection of human rights in an era of dragnet government surveillance, PEN American Center said today.

The establishment of the new mandate comes at a time when many governments, including the United States, Australia, Canada, France, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, are engaging in sweeping surveillance and seeking to further expand their powers to collect vast amounts of communications data from millions of people around the world. UN Special Rapporteurs are tasked with investigating whether the laws and practices of governments comply with international human rights obligations.

“PEN’s work has shown that mass surveillance has a widespread chilling effect on free expression and creative freedom, leading large numbers of writers around the world to engage in self-censorship,” said Suzanne Nossel, executive director of PEN American Center. “Today’s unanimous decision by the Human Rights Council to establish a special rapporteur on privacy will strengthen efforts to rein in surveillance and demand that governments respect the rights to privacy and free expression.”