This article was written by Priyam Sen, a student of Amity University, Madhya Pradesh. 


In the present digital age the ambit of right to privacy has generated new challenges for the developing world. The present article firstly defines the term privacy in a broader sense through various legal provisions. The United Nations Human Rights council in the year 2015 announced for the establishment of special rapporteur to ensure the protection of right to privacy. The IT sector is growing at a tremendous rate making it difficult for the legislative process to keep pace with it. The web of digital era has trapped the whole world as each and every information is being shared through various digital forms like smart phones and free internet access.

The digital age technologies has been defined by the Committee on Privacy in the Information Age as “ a new ways of collecting and handling information that in turn have ramifications throughout society, as they mediate much private and public communication, interaction, and transaction.” (Waldo et al. 2007, 27). The present growth of information technology impacts human rights and has now become a topic for debate among the various human rights activities. The unmonitored use of such technologies have posed a great threat to human rights due to illegal collection and sharing of personal data. The issue of illegal extraction of personal data was brought in the limelight in the year 2013 by Edward Snowden who detailed out the mass surveillance by US National Security Agency. These incidents brought the serious danger to the right to privacy in the forefront.


The Committee on Privacy in the Information Age defines the term privacy in the general way “includes reference to the types of information available about an individual, whether they are primary or derived from analysis. These types of information include behavioural, financial, medical, biometric, consumer, and biographical.”  (Waldo et al.2007, 22).

The concept of right to privacy is outlined under Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and similar wordings has been used in Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (CCPR): “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.” [1]

Looking at the regional level there are various conventions that are promoting the right to privacy. Examples being Article 11 of the American Convention on Human Rights (Inter-American Commission on Human Rights 1969) or Article 8 of the European Convention (ECHR 1950): “Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”[2]


The need of the hour is to find solutions which can ensure that the right to privacy is protected and its infringement is duly sanctioned.

Firstly, privacy being a global concern, the international governance has to play an effective role in defining the term privacy which has universal applicability. This will ensure stability regarding the purview of the term privacy in a way that all the parties are able to enforce this right in case of violation at the national and international platform as well.

Secondly, as it was being stated at the RSA conference that the need is to utilise the knowledge and skills of content mangers, architect and IT engineers to prevent digital attacks with the sufficient and effective preventive steps. Therefore the IT developers must invent innovative and new ways to prevent cyber attacks.

Thirdly the requirement is to increase the involvement of civil society by making them aware about the ways to ensure protection of personal data in this digital world. There should be encouragement from various political activist and NGOs on the public to prevent the violation of their right to privacy. For instance the civil society organizations and various experts from all over the globe have established 13 International Principles on the Application of Human Right to Communication surveillance”. On the basis of these principles they are requesting the respective governments to conduct communication surveillance that shall be consistent to Human rights.

On 12 September 2014, the High Commissioner organised a panel discussion on the recommendation of the Human rights council. The report on the outcome was submitted to the human rights council during the 28th session.[3]

The international federation of library association and institutions statement on the privacy in the library environment emphasised on the role of library crypto parties. This system has been practiced in the countries like UK, France, Netherland, Australia, Sweden, US, Canada and Germany.[4]


With the upcoming data protection Regulations there is a hope that the prevailing issues related to data protection can be minimised at a larger extent. The aim is to ensure that the purview of the Act is such that it can ensure the protection of new privacy rights which includes the right to be forgotten online. People should have the right to request the companies to erase their personal data when the purpose for which the data was collected has been served. The right to object to profiling should also be considered in certain cases. Profiling means targeting people online and showing them advertisements based on their online behaviour. The other most important right that the individual should be provided with is that the person should be given the right to data portability so that they can obtain a copy of their personal data that the particular company possesses.

[1] Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948 and Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966.

[2] Article 10, Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, 1950.

[3] Summary of the Human Rights Council panel discussion on the right to privacy in the digital age, A/HRC/28/39, 19 December 2014, http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/HRC/28/39

[4]The right to privacy in the digital age, https://www.ifla.org/files/assets/faife/ochr_privacy_ifla.pdf last visited 10 Aug, 2018.

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