Privacy, democracy and human rights

Privacy has multitude of potential meanings and uses and that is why the concept of privacy is controversial, confusing, and perhaps even contradictory (Solove, p.42, 2011).

In ancient times, privacy meant isolating one’s self from the public sphere, which was considered as a form of punishment or deprivation. Later, specifically in the early 19th century, privacy was correlated with maintaining relationships between people.

However, in 1890, Warren and Brandeis found that privacy is more concerned with autonomy, that is, allowing people to control their own self-identity, rather than allowing it to be exploited (Solove, p.41–44, 2011). Autonomy is essential for sustaining democracies as it develops individuality, independent thought, diversity of views and non-conformity.

Autonomy is also part of the broader issue of human dignity, that is, the obligation to treat people not merely as means, but as valuable and worthy of respect. It secures the protection of an individual’s personal and private information, which can only be used with this individual’s consent.