How the Court can and should protect the Right to Privacy in the Digital Age

‘In the 21st century, the topic of privacy has taken on a new level of vigor, with new technological developments creating all sorts of new challenges. We are currently overwhelmed with countless new digital tools that increasingly expose our activities, both with our – sometimes tacit – consensus and without our knowledge.’

Many constitutional scholars (including Jed Rubenfeld of Yale Law School and Daniel Tagliarina of Utica College) argue that the “right to privacy” is among unenumerated rights worthy of protection by the United States Government and its Courts.  The phrase has long generated uncertainty and debate, however, with the rise of the digital age, the obligation to protect it, is more paramount than ever.

Far too often we hear of instances in which celebrities and “ordinary” private citizens have had their privacy rights breached.  For instance, Emma Watson, Emma Stone, and Vanessa Anne Hudgens are among those who have had private pictures leaked by hackers who intentionally invaded their privacy to post pictures of a “sexualized” nature to online forums.  Such instances caused members of the general public – namely moms and dads – to be up in arms and judge these celebrities for their actions, arguing they should remember the influence their actions can have on children and teenagers.  Yes, we need parents to monitor what their children are up to online.  However, when things like this happen, we need parents on the side of the law.

We need parents to remind their children that such pictures were only ever released to the public by way of cowardly individuals hiding behind a computer screen.  These people ultimately invaded the privacy rights of others and just because the victims hold “celebrity” status does not make this acceptable.  Personally, privacy has been a natural human right since the beginning of time.  It is the Courts and different legal systems which have yet to catch up, particularly in this digital era where anything can be shared with a swift click of a button.

In the context of European legislation in regards to the protection of personal data, we have the upcoming General Data Protection Regulation.  The aim is to ensure that new privacy rights are in line with current issues, such as the right to be forgotten online.  Moving across the Atlantic Ocean, no precedent with regards to online privacy rights exists in the Supreme Court.  In my opinion, data protection laws must be reviewed and applied across the board – the virtual, online world included within the legislation.  I take comfort and have faith that if or when a relevant case reaches the Supreme Court shortly, Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the “liberal bloc” will rule on the right side of history.  Let us hope this case arrives by way of certiorari or otherwise before those with a “sketchy” – at best – record dominate the Court and the legal landscape of the United States.

 

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