I live in the UK, and it would seem that up until the 1998 European Court of Human Rights act that English law had “recognized no general right or tort of privacy” (Wikipedia, 2014) and I was really surprised about that.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) act on the right to privacy falls under article 8, even though the act “did not precisely define the content of the right to privacy” (Mladenov, 2013). In a Ministry of Justice (MOJ) booklet Human Rights: Human Lives it defines Article 8 as “Everyone has the right to respect for their private and family life, their home and their correspondence” (Ministry of Justice, 2006).
Article 8 talks about people’s “Private Life” and this is defined that “a person has the right to live their own life with such personal privacy as is reasonable in a democratic society” (Ministry of Justice, 2006) and “the right to private life can also include the right to have personal information, such as a person’s official records, photographs, letters, diaries and medical information, kept private and confidential” (Ministry of Justice, 2006) the MOJ booklet further goes onto to say define that people correspondence could include “email”.
The Human Rights act does get a lot of negative press in the UK because some of the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) have been considered farcical such as this article from the Daily Telegraph where convicted criminals have avoided deportation from the UK by virtue of their right to a family life which is in the same Article 8 as the rights to privacy. But I think it is better to have explicit laws on the rights to privacy and have some people abuse the system than have no legal framework at all. The cynical conspiracy theorist in me thinks that if Article 8 was abolished using media stories such as this as a catalyst then our rights to privacy would also be abolished at the same time as they are also part of article 8.
It should be noted that the human rights act does not cover individuals or private company’s only public bodies such as the Government. This means that “there still is no general right to protection from invasion of privacy by other individuals in society” (Liberty Human Rights, 2009).
Overall, I think that Article 8 of the HRA is a good start to establishing a legal framework for people’s right to privacy.
In the UK there is a second piece of legislation called the Data Protection Act (DPA) 1998 and is a set of rules that covers “those who handle your personal data” (Liberty Human Rights, 2009). The DPA also has an impact on people right to privacy. In this act data falls into two categories “personal data and sensitive data” (Adams and McCrindle, 2012) personal data would include information such as your name and address and sensitive data would cover information such as your ethnic origin and sexual orientation.
The point of the DPA is to give individuals rights over “personal data and the way it is handled” (Liberty Human Rights, 2009). It also provides people with a “right to access personal data that is held about you” (Liberty Human Rights, 2009).
The DPA is supposed to ensure that data is deleted “once it is no longer required” (Adams and McCrindle, 2012) meaning the organisations should not hold data about individuals any longer than necessary, but it is not clear what necessary is in terms of time “it is up to the individual organisation to determine how long personal data should be held for” (Jay, 2009). This would go some way to protecting people privacy because “data may well become irrelevant and excessive” (Liberty Human Rights, 2009). The DPA also covers the disposal of personal data and that also potentially affects people’s privacy, if a company does not dispose of the data properly it could end up being intercepted.
The transference of your personal data to third parties would contravene the act meaning people’s privacy is protected because companies “cannot give that that information to a mail order company without your permission” (Liberty Human Rights, 2009). Other aspects that relate to individuals privacy and the DPA stipulate a framework that allows individuals to request what information companies hold on them. The DPA stipulates that “requests must also be satisfied within 40 days” (Jay, 2009).
Overall in my personal opinion the combination of the DPA and HRA should go a long way to giving people a large amount of privacy, much more than I believed before I started to write this assignment. But, with regard to the HRA, the NSA in America “has been storing phone, internet and email records of UK citizens not suspected of any wrongdoing” (Ball, 2013) and this is possible because the USA is not tied to HRA. So it makes the act a bit of a mockery. And we live busy lives, I receive multiple phone calls from people who I have no idea how they got my number or email, the DPA is only any good if someone can be bothered to use it, so I don’t know how much use it is in the real world.
Mladenov, M 2013, ‘Protection of the Right to Privacy in the Practice of the European Court of Human Rights. (English)’, Proceedings Of Novi Sad Faculty Of Law, 47, 3, pp. 575-593, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 8 March 2014.
Hennesy, P 2013. ‘Theresa May: I’ll bring in new law to end human rights farce’, ‘The Telegraph’ [website], available at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/immigration/9875052/Theresa-May-Ill-bring-in-new-law-to-end-human-rights-farce.html accessed online 8/3/2014
Adams, A, & McCrindle, R 2012, “Pandora’s Box : Social And Professional Issues Of The Information Age” / Andrew A. Adams And Rachel J. Mccrindle, n.p.: Chichester : John Wiley & Sons, 2008.
Wikipedia 2014. ‘Privacy in English Law’, ‘Wikipedia The Free Encyclopaedia’, Available online at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Privacy_in_English_law accessed online 8/3/2014
Ministry of Justice, 2006. ‘Human rights: human lives’, ‘Ministry of Justice’ available at http://www.justice.gov.uk/downloads/human-rights/human-rights-handbook-for-public-authorities.pdf accessed online 8/3/2014
Liberty Human Rights, 2009. ‘Overview of data protection principles’, ‘Liberty’ [website], available at http://www.yourrights.org.uk/yourrights/privacy/data-protection/overview-of-data-protection-principles.shtml accessed online 8/3/2014
Liberty Human Rights, 2009. ‘Article 8-the right to respect for private and family life, home and correspondence’, ‘Liberty’ [website], available at http://www.yourrights.org.uk/yourrights/privacy/article-8-the-right-to-respect-for-private-and-family-life-home-and-corresp.html accessed online 8/3/2014
Jay R, 2009. ‘Keep data on the right side of the law’, ‘Computing’ [website], available at http://www.computing.co.uk/ctg/feature/1843972/keep-law/page/1 accessed online 8/3/2014
Ball, J 2013. ‘US and UK struck secret deal to allow NSA to ‘unmask’ Britons’ personal data’, ‘the guardian’ [website], available at http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/20/us-uk-secret-deal-surveillance-personal-data accessed online 8/3/2014