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Communication surveillance versus right to privacy: Where do our laws stand?

February 5, 2024

DHAKA – The right to privacy is widely regarded as one of the fundamental rights inherent to every individual. Several international and regional human rights agreements have acknowledged this right as non-negotiable and mandatory. Examples of this recognition include the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (Article 12), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 17), the European Convention on Human Rights (Article 8), the American Convention on Human Rights (Article 11), and the Arab Charter of Human Rights (Article 21).

A pertinent question may arise: what precisely is the right to privacy? Lawyers Samuel D Warren and Louis Brandeis described the term “right to privacy” in December 1890, defining it as the “right to be left alone.” In his 1967 book Privacy and Freedom, lawyer and political scientist Alan F Westin provided a definition of privacy as the “voluntary, temporary withdrawal of a person from the general society through physical or psychological means, either in a state of solitude or small-group intimacy or, when among larger groups, in a condition of anonymity or reserve.”

Hence, it can be contended that privacy is subjective and should be individually determined by each person. Furthermore, it is imperative that an individual possesses the freedom to determine which specific information pertaining to themselves they wish to disclose. However, in the age of Big Data and the automated processing of personal data by artificial intelligence, it has become challenging for individuals (referred to as “data subjects”) to determine which data pertaining to themselves may be considered private.

In the book titled The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human