Is This Public or Private? – A Study of the Philosophical Foundations of European Privacy Regulation

Project: Research project

Project Details

Description (abstract)

This project studies the legal distinction between the public and the private. The focus of the analysis is the law of the European Union, where this distinction is being emphatically drawn. The current legal situation is such that it is increasingly hard to define what is private and what public, and why.
Privacy and personal data protection are areas that demonstrate social and political tensions. Today, the law reflects a general worry shared in politics, philosophy, the arts and popular culture that privacy is under threat. This sense of something being lost, or soon to be lost, has become ever stronger in the aftermath of the WikiLeaks and Snowden revelations. Questions about the connections between personal information and democratic governance have also surfaced. The relationship betwen what should be protected as private and what should be kept public, common, open or transparent are very much on the political agenda.
The project belongs in an area of EU law, which still suffers somewhat from a lack of socio-legal scholarship. What is especially needed is research that is based on a thorough investigation of the law, but that combines methods from other sciences as well. This research project draws its critical force from comteporary philosophy, thus promising innovative results. Privacy rights are the focus, but the project will provide a wider view into EU law and policy. The strenght of this project is to reflect on the public-private divide in a constructive way by rethinking European privacy regulation.
The reason to study privacy rights lies in the specific nature of this field of law, where legal practice is forced to continuously develop the definition of privacy, as well as the conception of the person that privacy rights are meant to protect. Here, in difficult cases, the European courts, and European legislators to some degree as well, face the ungrateful task of outlining various aspects of what it means to be a person in the connected, digitalised and globalised world. As a result, European law also defines what should be public and what
should be private.
The first aim of the project is to add clarification on the current legal situation. The second is to provide answers to the question of how the public-private distinction should be drawn.

Layman's description

This research analyses the legal definition of what is public and what is private, and why. The project reflects on the public-private divide in a constructive way by analysing what is going on in privacy and personal data regulation with regard to the conception of the person that privacy rights are meant to protect. Moreover, what are the implications of the chosen type of personhood – a social being or an individual person – for community values, such as solidarity and equality?
Effective start/end date01/09/201931/08/2023