Sakharov Debate 2017: is online privacy a human right? -08/12/2017
The 2017 Sakharov Debate, co-hosted with the UCL European Institute, examined the human rights issues surrounding online privacy, looking at key areas such as hate speech and psychometric voter targeting during the Brexit campaigns and the ECJ’s judgment on UK government surveillance laws.
As technology and social media continue to blur the boundaries between our public and private lives, the nature of digital privacy is now one of the most pressing matters of our time. Although the proliferation of digital technology has clearly brought about positive social effects, it also entails a new range of challenges to civil liberties that have yet to be adequately covered by policy or legislation. After all, in the digital context, privacy can be seen as a gateway to other human rights, including freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, as well as the rights to personal freedom and security.
This raises concerns about how far government, corporate interests and even individual citizens are encroaching on privacy. The increase in digitised information has led governments to invest in new surveillance technologies, enabling them to track citizens’ movements and monitor communications. Similarly, commercially and politically motivated online advertising poses major questions about how sensitive personal information can and should be protected.
However, privacy can also be exploited to cover toxic or even criminal behaviour, including online harassment, political censorship, tax avoidance, or filtering access to information. Indeed, the rising number of leaks and investigations that seek to uncover unethical or illegal behaviour by governments, businesses or individuals needs to be examined in this context.
Panellists discussed the potential incompatibility of personal and political positions on privacy, exploring the current and future state of digital rights in the UK, the EU and beyond.