Revisiting the governance of privacy: Contemporary policy instruments in global perspective

Colin J Bennett*, Charles D. Raab

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

In the early 2000s, we surveyed and analyzed the global repertoire of policy instruments deployed to protect personal data in “The Governance of Privacy.” In this article, we explore how those instruments have changed as a result of 15 years of fundamental transformations in information technologies, and the new digital economy that they have produced. We review the contemporary range of transnational, regulatory, self-regulatory and technical instruments according to the same framework, and conclude that the types of policy instrument have remained remarkably stable, even though they are now deployed on a global scale, rather than in association with particular legal or administrative traditions. While the labels remain the same, however, the conceptual foundations for their legitimation and justification are shifting as a greater emphasis on accountability, risk, ethics and the social/political value of privacy have gained purchase in the policy community. Our exercise in self-reflection demonstrates both continuity and change within the governance of privacy, and displays how we would have tackled the same research project today. As a broader case study of regulation, it also highlights the importance of going beyond the technical and instrumental labels. The change or stability of policy instruments do not take place in isolation from the wider conceptualizations that shape their meaning, purpose and effect.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)447-464
Number of pages18
JournalRegulation & Governance
Issue number3
Early online date27 Sept 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • data protection
  • governance
  • internet
  • privacy
  • regulation


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