A folder with files inside and with an image of a person pointing to themselves on it. A closed padlock is beside the folder.

UNCRC Article 16

I have the right to keep some things private

There should be laws to make sure a child’s diary, online messages and phone calls remain private.

Governments should protect children from attacks against them, their way of life and their home.

Article 16 of the UNCRC makes it clear that children and young people have the right to privacy, just like adults do.

This means that:

  • they have the right to a private family life,
  • they have the right to a private space where they can go to be alone, even if they’re in an institution, and
  • they have the right to keep their phone calls and emails private.

In Scotland, the right to privacy may not be respected if it puts someone in danger. For example, the police may look at a young person’s emails if someone who isn’t who they say they are is contacting them.

The Information Commissioner’s Office has a lot of information on children’s rights around their personal data.

You can read our office’s privacy policy here and read our web privacy policy here.


Your personal information is any information that can be identified as being about you.

For example, imagine we sent out a form that asked you to tell us your name, which school you went to and your opinion about something.

There probably isn’t anyone else at your school who has the same name as you, so we’d be able to work out that you personally had given us that opinion.

That would make your name and the school you went to personal information, because we could use it to identify you. It also means the opinion you put down on the form is your personal information. 

Some personal information is called special category data, which has extra protections because it’s more sensitive than other personal information.


Special category data is particularly sensitive personal information. Because it’s more open to misuse than other personal information, there are extra protections around it.

It includes information about someone’s:

  • Race or ethnic origin
  • Political opinions
  • Religious or philosophical beliefs
  • Trade union membership
  • Genetic data
  • Biometric data (when used to identify someone)
  • Health
  • Sex life
  • Sexual orientation

Sometimes we will need special category data to help us resolve issues that affect the rights of individual or groups of children and young people in Scotland.

We also ask people to share some of this information with us to help us meet our equalities duties.

General Comment on rights in the digital world

The Committee on the Rights of the Child has produced many General Comments that help people understand how the UNCRC works in practice.

Draft General Comment 25 specifically focuses on children’s rights in the digital world, including consideration of how their right to privacy should be respected and protected online.

Days of General Discussion

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child facilitates Days of General Discussion where experts from around the world can discuss a child rights issue in detail. The reports of their discussions are a helpful tool to understand how the UNCRC should be interpreted.

Some Days of General Discussion relevant to Article 16 are:

Back to top