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Privacy chiefs from 40 countries have called upon the United Nations to prepare a legally binding instrument which clearly sets out in detail the rights to data protection and privacy as enforceable human rights.

The call to the UN was made in a declaration adopted at the 27th International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners in Montreux last week.

In what they have called the Montreux Declaration, the commissioners also call for governments to encourage the adoption of legislation in line with recognised data protection principles and to extend it to their mutual relations; and for the Council of Europe to invite non-member states of the organisation to ratify the Convention for the protection of individuals with regard to automatic processing of personal data and its additional protocol.

International organisations have been asked to commit themselves to complying with data protection rules, international non-governmental organisations have been asked to draw up data protection standards; and hardware and software manufacturers have been asked to develop products and systems that integrate privacy-enhancing technologies.

The nature of the legally-binding instrument to be adopted by the UN is not prescribed; but Swiss data-protection commissioner Hanspeter Thür told SwissInfo.org that it could be a text adopted by the UN in the same way as human-rights provisions.

Progress in implementing the objectives will be subject to a regular assessment. The first such assessment will be carried out at the 28th International Conference, due to take place in September 2006 in Argentina.

The commissioners also adopted a resolution presented by Germany on the use of biometric data in passports, ID cards and travel documents. In it, the commissioners call for effective safeguards to be built in so as to limit the risks inherent in biometrics. They also adopted a resolution from Italy on the use of personal data for political communication purposes.

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