Privacy in the digital age – Is privacy a largely obsolete concept or a fundamental human right?

Tue 13 Jun 2017 6:00pm7:30pm

Both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights recognise privacy as a fundamental human right. Article 17 of the ICCPR provides that ‘no one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence…’ However, the United Nations General Assembly has expressed concern regarding the negative impact domestic and extraterritorial surveillance and mass interception and collection of digital communications has on human rights. The General Assembly has called upon states to respect and protect the right to privacy in digital communication and ensure compliance with international human rights law. 

However, in an age of domestic and extraterritorial electronic surveillance, mass interception and collection of personal data, and over sharing on social media on the rise, people seem to expect that someone is watching. Facebook founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, has publically questioned the relevance of privacy today and stated it is no longer a ‘social norm’. Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google, when asked about Google’s seeming lack of concern for privacy commented ‘if you're doing something that you don't want other people to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place’. 

Yet, many have emphasised the importance of privacy to a person’s self-determination and autonomy. When the increased surrender of an individual’s personal information brings with it the opportunity for increased surveillance, there may be a threat to an individual’s human rights. The right to privacy and freedom of expression, movement, opinion and association may be in danger.

Join UQ Law academic Dr Mark Burdon with Associate Professor Nicolas Suzor and Dr Monique Mann as they discuss privacy in a digital age and attempt to answer the question: Is privacy a largely obsolete concept or a fundamental human right in the digital age? 

Dr Mark Burdon

Dr Mark Burdon is a Senior Lecturer at The University of Queensland's TC Beirne School of Law. His research interests are information privacy law and the regulation of information security. Dr Burdon has researched on a diverse range of multi-disciplinary projects involving the regulation of information security practices, legislative frameworks for the mandatory reporting of data breaches, data sharing in e-government information frameworks, consumer protection in e-commerce and information protection standards for e-courts. His most recent work with Associate Professor Mark Andrejevic examines the sensorisation of everyday devices leading to the onset of a 'sensor society'.

Associate Professor Nicolas Suzor

Associate Professor Nicolas Suzor researches the regulation of networked society. He is a Senior Research Fellow in the Law School at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia, and a Chief Investigator of QUT’s Digital Media Research Centre, where he leads a program of research on the regulation and governance of the internet and social media. Nic is an ARC DECRA research fellow, studying the regulation of internet intermediaries and social media platforms. His research examines the peer economy, the governance of social networks, digital copyright, and knowledge commons. Nic is also the Legal Lead of the Creative Commons Australia project and the deputy chair of Digital Rights Watch, an Australian non-profit organisation whose mission is to ensure that Australian citizens are equipped, empowered and enabled to uphold their digital rights.

Dr Monique Mann

Dr Monique Mann is a lecturer at the School of Justice, and a member of the Crime and Justice Research Centre and the Intellectual Property and Innovation Law Research Group, in the Faculty of Law at the Queensland University of Technology. Monique is advancing a program of socio-legal research on the intersecting topics of police technology, transnational policing and surveillance. She holds a PhD from the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Policing and Security, Griffith University. Monique has interned with the United Nations in Vienna, was a visiting scholar at the Regulatory Institutions Network at the Australian National University and also worked as a Research Analyst at the Australian Institute of Criminology. She is on the Board of Directors of the Australian Privacy Foundation.