Topic Submissions

Privacy as an International Human Right and the Right to Obscurity in Cyberspace

  • Alexandra Rengel


Fundamental rights are considered to be those which human beings have by the fact of being human and are neither created nor can be abrogated by any government absent extraordinary circumstances. They are fundamental in that the enjoyment of such rights is necessary to live a life with dignity. Fundamental rights are recognized by several international conventions and treaties such as the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Convention on Economic and Social Rights and they include cultural, economic, and political rights, such as the right to life, the right to liberty, the right of association, and the right to freedom of religion. Privacy is an essential human need. Although the concept of privacy has a certain abstract quality to it that makes it difficult to define, instinctively, humans need to know that they can keep some things secret from others. Absent extraordinary circumstances the need for humans to have a certain degree of privacy is innate. Perhaps as a result of that intrinsic need, privacy as a concept has been recognized in a social as well as a legal sense in most cultures from time immemorial. Today, the right to privacy is considered to be an identifiable human right with universal qualities deserving legal recognition and protection, although the scope of such legal protection is still being determined. In reviewing the concept of privacy, new technologies often make us wonder what level of protection of our right to privacy is possible in a world where personal information about us can be accessed not by infringing our physical space, but by invisible hands that can access our most private secrets just by pressing a button and looking at a screen. New technologies in the form of the Internet, social networks, remote access to information, etc., make it increasingly more difficult to maintain privacy rights in cyberspace such that online invisibility has become impossible. The quest for invisibility is the idea that individuals should be able to choose to remain invisible online. In order for that scenario to become a reality more emphasis needs to be made on the universal recognition of privacy principles in the context of cyberspace. Additionally, design based privacy solutions must be created to protect individuals’ privacy in cyberspace.