Intercultural Human Rights Law Review

First Page



The concept of privacy has been discussed for centuries by philosophers, anthropologists, sociologists, and legal scholars. The importance that individuals place on privacy is beyond question and transcends geographical, cultural and racial boundaries. Individuals' need for secrecy and private space is so fundamental to forging relationships with others, and to preserving our sense of self, that a society with a complete lack of individual privacy would be unimaginable. A right to privacy protects individuals from having the contents of certain private information made public and regulates the means and manner by which that information is obtained. However, new technologies often make us wonder what level of protection for our right to privacy is possible in our world where personal information about us can easily be accessed without the need to infringe into our physical space, but by invisible hands that can get to know our most private secrets with a keystroke and looking at a screen. As technology becomes increasingly able to facilitate breaches in our privacy, it becomes most important to establish protections. In the last thirty years, extraordinary events have made us reconsider the concept of privacy. Globalization and the digital age have affected humanity and continue to advance at such a rapid rate that what the future will bring is difficult to imagine. Today, fastpaced innovation and perpetual change is the only constant, and it can be said that the digital age with all of its technological developments has changed the world. The Internet, social networks, large storing systems, as well as sophisticated electronic sharing and communication devices, allow for the fast transfer of information and smooth the progress of communication between people around the world. In addition to the advancements in the communication field, surveillance technologies have also become highly developed, are now less expensive, easier to obtain and less noticeable. Today, not only governments, but also private individuals have access to surveillance systems that were previously reserved to books of science fiction. Concern for privacy has become an issue in the most innocuous of transactions, such as standing in a public place where Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras might be installed, doing a search on Google, making travel reservations, paying bills through online banking, or even checking out a library book. Technology has removed all geographical restrictions for these once private acts, which are now accessible by private parties, the public and the government - all from the most remote of locations. At this time, it is essential to consider the effect of these new technologies on privacy and to deem it vital that legislators, politicians, designers and manufacturers take an active role in protecting privacy rights. There are initiatives that can be undertaken to design a future digital landscape for the world that makes the most of the positive effects of technology while taking into account privacy concerns. A good starting point is to appreciate that the laws need to catch up with the technology in order to adequately protect individuals' privacy. Legislators need to be advised by experts knowledgeable about the technology they are attempting to legislate in order for the laws to be effective. We can also rely on the designers and manufacturers of technology to consider the ethical implications of the technology they create. The technology and the ease of communications in today's world have helped individuals recognize that the concept of privacy is more than an abstract notion, and that we must actively seek its protection in order to enjoy the type of freedom that society strives to reach. Value Sensitive Design, Privacy by Design," and Privacy-Enhancing Technologies, are all the result of concern about the effect of new technologies on privacy, and are all positive signs that reflect on humans' value of privacy and other fundamental rights.

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Privacy Law Commons