Winner of the Law School Blog Article Competition: “Privacy is dead, or at least is dying irrevocably. Where does the Law stand?” by Vladimir Lamanov

Modern technology has a tremendous effect on our society. We live in an age of information abundance, an Internet driven and mobile device world. Over the past twenty-six years, a global system of interconnected computer networks has expanded so much that it has become an indispensable part of our lives. Social networking is a phenomenon that has taken our world by storm. Websites such as Facebook, Google+, Twitter, MySpace, Instagram and many others have brought communication to a completely new level, allowing us to share information of any form. Never before has so much material, traditionally private by nature, been so widely shared.

Facebook, a free of charge social networking website with over a billion registered users[1], produces a revenue amounting up to 2,4 billion in just in one yearly quarter.[2] Indeed, it is an enormously popular website, but how does it generate income? Facebook’s advertisement system is quite advanced, promoting products that most of us surprisingly prefer. But what about search engines such as Google, for instance? Search engines are free as well, yet, there are no advertisement banners on them. This is not a unique observation, but it is a crucial one: If you are not paying for the product, the product is you.[3]

The idea that a corporation possesses a very accurate sociological outlook of every one of us is quite horrifying. An award-winning investigative journalist, Julia Angwin, has written a book where this idea is investigated.[4] She describes how the pages we like, the people we interact with, our habits and preferences, sexual orientation, risk tolerance and even our status updates are being logged and then sold to the advertisement corporations. Health information that we search, e-mails that we sent in private, are not private in reality. The full extent of this is unknown. What we do know is that this is the most invasive advertising system ever devised. Moreover, it is no longer a secret that many social websites are granting access of their databases to different government authorities for the purpose of monitoring criminal activity.[5] Consumer profiling, pervasive surveillance, big data information systems and biometrics have enabled governments, businesses and individuals to monitor our everyday life to collect, aggregate, use or sell personal information on a scale never before imagined. We have entered a time where the contours of privacy have been reshaped completely.

As the Internet evolves rapidly, the law that governs it is required to be well developed and up to date. Today, the Internet is regulated independently by each state, through government instruments and national law. English law, for instance, protects people’s privacy partly through statutory mechanisms and partly by common law torts. UK courts are reluctant to recognise an independent and absolute right to privacy[6]. Although immense ammendments were made to the UK legal system due to the enforcement of the Human Rights Act 1998 in October 2000, the law concerning privacy was not radically alternated. The Act incorporated Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights which stands for the right to respect private life. Many lawyers back in the time hoped that the incorporation would result the English law to recognise the right to privacy better, overcoming the reluctance of common law. However, in practise, the Courts have refused to take that step as seen in cases of A v B plc[7] and other[8], where privacy issues were treated through already established causes of action such as: breach of confidence or in appropriate circumstances, by proceedings for trespass, libel and nuisance. Through the years, privacy law had not been essentially altered.[9] The main instrument that provides protection of right to privacy in the Internet is the Data Protection Directive, adopted by European Commission in 1995, the purpose of which was to harmonise data protection legislation throughout the European Union.[10] Each member state was obliged to implement the Directive by 24 October, 1998. The directive can be seen in action in the recent case of Vidal-Hall,[11] where claims were brought by three individual users against Google for the collection of private information through its services. Giant web corporations are being subject to trial in many countries all over the word, especially in the US. In the case of United States v. Google[12]the largest civil penalty in the history was won by the Federal Trade Commission[13] due to the use of private information by Google’s servicesAlthough national law allows victims to be compensated, the issue of private data disclosure remains unsettled. Corporations continue to profit from our personal data. These are the consequences of an Internet-based society and its free services. The Law however, as a protective instrument, completely fails its purpose in this regard. There is no point in acquiring compensation if the core issue is never resolved.

Privacy is dead, or at least is dying irrevocably. Today’s Internet privacy law is ineffective. If privacy is ought to be maintained, then there is a need for an up-to date instrument that preserves each person’s solitude from business corporations and others. An area of law that is rapidly developing, set to control the chaos that can occur within and due to the Internet is Cyberlaw. Cyberlaw is “a term, which refers to all the legal and regulatory aspects of Internet and the World Wide Web.”[14] Cyberlaw is multi-disciplinary as it covers criminal and civil issues ranging from financial crimes to cyberbullying. Its main concern over the years has proven to be privacy.[15] Nevertheless, Cyberlaw is bound to the legal system of each state. If this area of law could be unified and brought on an international level, enforced by an intergovernmental organization, promoting overall security, the extend of data gathering by the business corporations could be effectively limited. A Google representative, Peter Fleischer, has addressed the U.N. in France regarding privacy issues and expressed that the current international privacy policies were not adequately protecting consumers. He has proposed the establishment of global privacy policy within the United Nations Charter that would efficiently protect consumers’ privacy while causing the least possible amount of negative impact on web browsers such as Google.[16] This is a good example of such approach.

The function of all essential aspects of the Internet is possible only within well-structured legal boundaries.  Without the protection of ideas, data information, businesses and individuals, the full potential of the Internet would not be reached. Cyberlaw tends to regulate these aspects of our lives. Today’s law, however, as a discipline and a protective instrument is ineffective in this regard.



Bakardjieva M., Internet society: the Internet in everyday life (Sage Publications, London 2005).

Brown. I., Regulating code: good governance and better regulation in the information age (Cambridge Press, GB 2013).

Kenyon A, Richardson M., New Dimensions in Privacy Law: International and Comparative Perspectives (UK, Cambridge University Press 2006).

Nussbaum S., Martha C., Offensive Internet : Speech, Privacy, and Reputation (Harvard University Press 2011).

Joinson A., Oxford Handbook of Internet Psychology (Oxford, Oxford University Press , 2007).


A v B plc [2003] QB 195

Campbell v. MGN Ltd.Naomi [2004] UKHL 22

Google Spain v AEPD and Mario Costeja González C-131/12

Joffe v. Google, Inc., 729 F.3d 1262 (9th Cir. 2013)

Mosley v Google Inc & Anor [2015] EWHC 59 (QB)

United States v. Google Inc. (No. CV 12-04177 SI (N.D. Cal. Nov. 16, 2012)

Vidal-Hall et al v Google ([2015] EWCA Civ 311)

Wainwright v Home Office [2004] 2 AC 406

Relevant websites and legislation:

Data Protection Act 1998 Accessed 20th  January, 2017.

Definition of Cyber law given by Pavan Duggal in 1996 Accessed 20th  January, 2017.

Facebook Statistics Accessed 20th  January, 2017.

Library of Congress, Online Privacy Law: United Kingdom <> Accessed 20th  January, 2017.

Journals, Articles:

Bobbie Johnson, Google urges UN to set global internet privacy rules (The Guardian, September 14, 2007) Accessed January 20th, 2017.

Council of Europe, Handbook on European data protection law (European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, 2014) Page 18. Accessed 20th  January, 2017.

Joinson A. and Paine C., Self-disclosure, Privacy and the Internet (Institute of Educational Technology, United Kingdom) Accessed 20th  January, 2017.

Markesinis B., O’Cinneide C. and others, Concerns and Ideas about the Developing English Law of Privacy (Institute of Global Law) Accessed 20th  January, 2017.

Markoff J., Pentagon Plans a Computer System That Would Peek at Personal Data of Americans (The New York Times, November 2002) Accessed 20th  January, 2017.

Palmer M., TomTom sorry for selling driver data to police Accessed 20th  January, 2017.

Ruttenberg J., Intellectual Property And Cyberlaw (Harvard Law School 2013, USA) 1. Accessed 20th  January, 2017.

Shontell A., 7 People Who Were Arrested Because Of Something They Wrote On Facebook (Business Insider, July 2013) Accessed 20th  January, 2017.

Warren & Brandeis, “The Right to Privacy” (Harvard Law Review, Vol. 4, 1890). Accessed 20th  January, 2017.

Wessing T., An overview of UK data protection law, Page 2 Accessed 20th  January, 2017.

Westin A., Privacy And Freedom (Washington and Lee Law Review, 1968) Volume 25, Issue 1 Accessed 20th  January, 2017.

[1] Facebook Statistics Accessed 19th January, 2017.

[2] Facebook Reports Third Quarter 2016 Results (MENLO PARK, Calif. – November 2, 2016 – Facebook, Inc. (NASDAQ: FB) Accessed 19th January, 2017.

[3] There are multiple lawsuits over issues such as privacy, advertising, intellectual property against many social websites. The recorder, In House Playbook (The recorder: Law, Buisness, Technology, 2014) Accessed 19th January, 2017.

[4]Julia Angwin,  Dragnet Nation (Times Books, 2014).

[5] Programs such as “Information Awareness Office” launched by the US. The program was later “shut-down” due to the criticism and resistance raised by the US citizens, but analogous and less obvious government programs are still shrivelling and analysing tons of information every day. More can be found by having a look at the material disclosed by Edward Snowden.

[6] Andrew T. Kenyon, Megan Richardson, New Dimensions in Privacy Law: International and Comparative Perspectives (UK, Cambridge University Press 2006) 13.

[7] A v B plc [2003] QB 195

[8] As seen from the judgments in Wainwright v Home Office [2004] 2 AC 406of Campbell v. MGN Ltd.Naomi [2004] UKHL 22.

[9] Although, a huge change was made to privacy law and to the whole UK legal system due to the enforcement of the Human Rights Act 1998 in October 2000, nothing was radically alternated. The Act incorporated Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights which stands for the right to respect private life, as well Article 10 that guarantees freedom of expression. On practice however, the mechanism does not function in its full potential.

[10] Member States have adopted the Directive in slightly different ways, so there are still some differences in national data protection law between them.

[11] Vidal-Hall et al v Google ([2015] EWCA Civ 311)

[12] United States v. Google Inc. (No. CV 12-04177 SI (N.D. Cal. Nov. 16, 2012)

[13] $22.5 million civil penalty judgment

[14] Definition of Cyber law given by Pavan Duggal in 1996 Accessed 20th  January, 2017.

[15] Nussbaum S., Martha C., Offensive Internet : Speech, Privacy, and Reputation (Harvard University Press 2011).

[16] Bobbie Johnson, Google urges UN to set global internet privacy rules (The Guardian, September 14, 2007) Accessed January 20th, 2017.

Posted in Article Competition, Data Protection, Intellectual Property