Is privacy egregiously wrong? Reflections on a concept that can make or break constitutions

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

Abstract / Description of output

This chapter explores the normative force of privacy as a concept that sits at the very heart of international human rights and many constitutions worldwide. It is written on the fiftieth anniversary of the US Supreme Court ruling in Roe v Wade (1973), which confirmed the right to privacy as a core part of the penumbra of rights within the Bill of Rights of the US Constitution. This right to privacy was the foundation upon which the court ruled that women had a constitutional right to access to abortion services, since notoriously overturned by a very differently constituted Supreme Court in Dobbs v Jackson Women's Health Organization (2022). In doing so, the Dobbs court said that Roe was “egregiously wrong” and on a collision course with the Constitution. This chapter examines the wider and longer-term implications of this turn for privacy itself. It does so against the backdrop of the pioneering article written by Professor Ruth Gavison, “Privacy and the Limits of Law”, which appeared in the Yale Law Journal in 1980. In that masterly piece of scholarship, Gavison subjected privacy to forensic scrutiny—not only as part of the US Constitution but also as a device for securing individual rights and policing social regulation more broadly. In a similar vein, this chapter asks: what is the future for privacy as a concept in the United States in the light of the assault on women’s rights in Dobbs and on the notion of privacy rights more generally? It is argued that the unending fluidity and malleability of privacy renders it particularly vulnerable to attack. This raises serious and important questions about its enduring normative force as a protector of individual rights, and leads us to ask: is privacy itself “egregiously wrong”?
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationConfidentiality, Privacy and Data Protection in Biomedicine
Subtitle of host publicationInternational Concepts and Issues
EditorsEdward Dove
Number of pages21
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2024

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • privacy
  • law
  • constitution
  • abortion
  • ethics
  • intersectionality


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