The right to privacy has long been considered a fundamental human right and is widely recognised in numerous regional and international human rights instruments. For example, Article 12 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides that, ‘No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home, or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation’. The importance of the right to privacy stems from the fact that it remains necessary for the effective enjoyment of many other rights and freedoms, given that it enables the individual to define the parameters of his personal sphere which he or she enjoys and navigates free from social and governmental encroachment. This is essential for the full realisation of, among other things, the freedoms of expression and association. In light of this, many Bills of Rights articulate freedom of expression as necessarily including freedom from interference with one’s correspondence.
Notwithstanding the importance of the right to privacy, it is by no means absolute. It is a qualified right which may usually be limited in the interests of public safety, national security, or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. These necessary qualifications give rise to a perpetual tension between the citizen’s right to privacy and the state’s responsibility for the maintenance of safety and security. With the increasing storage and transmission of data and communication electronically, new challenges arise regarding the protection of the individual’s right to privacy given the enhanced vulnerability stemming from the threats of interception and surveillance in the digital age. This paper, authored by O’Neal Webster attorney Dr. Alecia Johns, briefly outlines some of the recent developments and challenges in this area, with a specific focus on the implications of these developments within the Caribbean regional context.
Dr. Johns first presented this paper during a panel discussion at STEP Caribbean Conference 2016, St. Lucia, April 26, 2016.