Privacy: A Challenge for the Next Century
Sir Brian Neill
In this chapter I hope to examine the nature and extent of the rights which a civilised society should accord to the individual to protect him from incursions by others into his private life and his private affairs and from the commercial exploitation by others of his name and personality. It is an appropriate time to undertake such a task because, although the text of the new legislation is not yet in its final form, it now seems almost certain that 1998 will see the incorporation into English law of the main provisions of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms ('the European Convention') which was signed in Rome in November 1950. Another piece of relevant recent legislation is the Data Protection Act 1998 which received the Royal Assent on 16 July 1998. The new Act makes provision for the regulation of the processing of information relating to individuals, including the obtaining, holding, use or disclosure of such information.
There are, however, other reasons why English lawyers should look afresh at the means whereby we attempt to uphold and safeguard the rights and freedoms defined in section I (that is, Articles 2 to 18) of the European Convention. To an increasing extent, certainly in the higher courts, English judges are being referred to decisions reached in other jurisdictions and are being invited to pay regard to the reasoning of tribunals which, though operating under different systems of law, have sought to find on comparable facts solutions which are logical and just. Moreover, developments in technology, particularly in the field of telecommunications, suggest that there is a need to try over a period of time to