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Privacy in constitutions: The data

Privacy International has compiled data on the privacy provisions in national constitutions around the world, including which countries have constitutional protections, whether they come from international agreements, what aspects of privacy are actually protected and when those protections were enacted. We are pleased to make this information available under a Creative Commons license for organizations, researchers, students and the community at large to use to support their work (and hopefully contribute to a greater understanding of privacy rights).

The categories

Though the right to privacy exists in several international instruments, the most effective privacy protections come in the form of constitutional articles. Varying aspects of the right to privacy are protected in different ways by different countries. Broad categories include:

  • protection against searches of the home
  • protection of personal communications and correspondence
  • the right to have one’s data protected from misuse
  • right to family life
  • habeas data, i.e. the right to see what data someone or some agency holds about you and correct if it is incorrect

We have used similar categories to organize the relevant articles, making it possible to quickly gain an overview a given countries constitutional privacy regime.

Qualifications on rights

Some constitutional rights are absolute, the right to privacy typically is not. The effectiveness of a constitutional protection of privacy depends not only on the presence of a protection, but also upon how exceptions to the protection are defined (e.g. for the prevention of crime or national security).

Where there is a lack of detail in a provision, there is a danger that a judge will be unable to support an interpretation that protects individuals’ rights when such an interpretation would be highly unpopular with the government of the day.

Final thoughts and conditions of use

For each country that has a provision for the right to privacy, the spreadsheet includes the date that the constitution was accepted as law and necessary hyperlinks to the actual document. We imagine that it might be possible visualize this information. Ways we have imagined include:

  • how different constitutions have borrowed language from international conventions and each other
  • an illustration of which countries protect which categories of privacy
  • the growth over time of constitutionally protected privacy rights globally

This research is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License. We ask that you credit us with the initial research and, if possible, we would ask that you let us know what you have done with the information as we would be excited to know how it is being used. If you have further questions be sure to get in touch with us.

 

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