Who owns Privacy?

Bart van der Sloot

Who owns Privacy?

The classic assumption in privacy theory is that individuals can invoke a right to privacy to protect their individual interests. I’ve challenged the idea that only individuals can rely on the right to privacy in a series of articles, arguing inter alia that groups and legal persons can also invoke privacy. Also, I've showed that privacy and data protection were originally only marginally concerned with individual rights. I plan to write more on borderline cases: can deceased invoke privacy, unborn children, states and animals? A second theme in my work explores the assumption that privacy only serves to protect individual interests (click here).

Do privacy and data protection rules apply to legal persons and should they?


This article analyzes in how far legal persons can claim a right to professional secrecy under the right to privacy and data protection in Europe.  Privacy and data protection rules are usually said to protect the individual against intrusive governments and nosy companies. These rights guarantee the individual’s freedom, personal autonomy and human dignity, among others. More and more, however, legal persons are also allowed to invoke the rights to privacy and data protection. Prima facie, it seems difficult to reconcile this trend with the standard interpretation of those rights, as legal persons do not enjoy freedom, personal autonomy or human dignity and it seems uncertain why business interests should be protected under privacy and data protection rules. On second thoughts, however, it appears rather unproblematic.


Buy the article here or download a draft here

Do groups have a right to protect their group interest in privacy and should they?


The book 'Group Privacy' is edited by Linnet Taylor, Luciano Floridi and Bart van der Sloot. "The overall goal of the book is to present the latest research on the new challenges of data technologies. It will offer an overview of the social, ethical and legal problems posed by group profiling, big data and predictive analysis and of the different approaches and methods that can be used to address them. In doing so, it will help the reader to gain a better grasp of the ethical and legal conundrums posed by group profiling. The volume first maps the current and emerging uses of new data technologies and clarifies the promises and dangers of group profiling in real life situations. It then balances this with an analysis of how far the current legal paradigm grants group rights to privacy and data protection, and discusses possible routes to addressing these problems. Finally, an afterword gathers the conclusions reached by the different authors and discuss future perspectives on regulating new data technologies."


Buy the book here or download it here.

Do data protection rules protect the individual
and should they?


This article critically reflects on the role of the individual, his interests, his rights and the notion of Informed Consent in the European Data Protection law.


The GDPR intorudces a number of specific obligations and rights in order to protect the interests of the citizen and consumer and provides far-reaching powers for governmental agencies to enforce these rules.


However, not only is this directly against the original purpose of and ratio behind data protection rules, moreover, an increased emphasis on consumer interests and rights to control personal data seems an inadequate tool for solving the current problems involved with Big Data.



Buy the article here or download a draft here

The current human rights framework in general and the privacy paradigm in particular is based on the individual in a threefold manner: (1) it provides him with a subjective right, (2) to protect his personal interest and (3) the outcome of a court case is determined by balancing the individual against a societal interest. Big Data processes, however, do not revolve around individuals; they focus on large groups and have an impact on society in general. Consequently, the focus on the individual and his interests is becoming increasingly obsolete. To remedy this fact, privacy scholars have suggested to reformulate privacy either as a group right, a societal interest or a precondition for a democratic society. Focusing on other than individual interests obviously has an impact on the way rights and legal claims are attributed, how rules are enforced and how the outcome of legal cases is determined. This contribution discusses the different suggestions that have been put forward and determines in how far they might ameliorate the current privacy paradigm.


Buy the book here or download the chapter here.


Other Scientific Contributions

Can a person be both the data subject and the data controller?


Download the editorial here.