September 29, 2014

Internet era could lead to new privacy law, says senior judge

Lord Neuberger, who is the president of the Supreme Court, said it was time to re-think the law because information spread quickly around the globe via social media including Facebook and Twitter.

His comments were interpreted as a first step towards legislating to protect people’s privacy – which critics warn would hinder the ability of the press to investigate and expose wrong-doing and corruption.

Lord Neuberger said the speed of new technology means we may need to consider a privacy law. Britain has no single privacy law, unlike many other European countries, but UK judges have been accused of introducing a privacy law never debated or considered by Parliament, based only on the Human Rights Act – which contains a ‘right to private and family life’ – and their own successive judgments.

The process began when law lords ruled it was wrong for a newspaper to have pictured model Naomi Campbell going to a drug rehabilitation clinic. In a speech in Hong Kong, Lord Neuberger said there had been “astonishing developments in IT – the ease with which information can be transmitted and received across the world, the ease with which words and scenes can be clandestinely recorded, and the ease with which information can be misrepresented or doctored.”

These developments may make it inevitable that the law on privacy, and perhaps the law relating to communications generally, may have to be reconsidered. This seems even more likely following the judgment of the European Court in May in Google Spain SL v AEPD Case 131/12 – the right to be forgotten.

Lord Neuberger’s intervention could be the first step towards a new privacy law in this country.

Royds can advise on data protection and other issues including privacy and communication laws. For more information please visit or contact Stephen Welfare.

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