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Privacy rights and the law
Privacy has long been recognised as an important human right – but how does society...
Privacy has long been recognised as an important human right – but how does society balance this right with the protection of others, such as the right to freedom of expression? This unit will examine how privacy is protected in UK law and the impact on this of the European Convention on Human Rights.
After studying this unit you should be able to:
- explain what privacy means and what a right to privacy protects;
- identify the conflicts between privacy and other human rights and interests;
- understand how privacy is protected in the UK;
- summarise the elements which must be proven to show a breach of confidence;
- discuss the circumstances in which a confidence will not be protected;
- evaluate whether the law relating to breach of confidence now embraces privacy;
- critically analyse the right to privacy as enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights and how the European Court of Human Rights has interpreted this right;
- demonstrate that you are able to read and analyse legal materials (cases, statute and academic commentary) and use this legal information to develop your own arguments.
- Current section: Introduction
- Learning outcomes
- 1 Part A: What is privacy?
- 2 Part B: The right to privacy in the UK
- 3 Part C: Development of the right to confidence into a right to privacy
- 4 Part D: Article 8 of the European Convention
- 5 Review of the learning outcomes
Privacy rights and the law
Privacy has long been recognised as one of the important human rights and this is reflected in religion and history. There are, for example, references to privacy in the Qur'an, the Bible and Jewish law. Privacy was also protected in classical Greece and ancient China.
The protection of privacy is seen as a way of drawing the line to indicate how far society can intrude into a person's affairs. Privacy encompasses an individual's liberty to choose how they lead their lives, freedom from unwarranted state intervention and, increasingly, protection from invasion by the media.
An individual's privacy is highly valued. However, the law protecting a person's privacy is quite complex. The UK is party to various international human rights treaties which recognise the existence of a right to privacy, yet UK law does not contain a single enshrined right to privacy. No Act of Parliament creates such a right, and the common law only allows a limited recognition of privacy rights in specific situations.
This unit investigates how privacy is protected in the UK. We will examine the main protections for privacy in statute, common law and international law, and the effect of the Human Rights Act 1998. You will be encouraged to consider the interests that privacy protects and the conflict between the right to privacy and other important human rights, such as the right to freedom of expression.
This study unit is an adapted extract relevant to The Open University course W100 Rules, rights and justice: an introduction to law, which is no longer taught by the University. If you want to study formally with us, you may wish to explore other courses we offer in this.