Journal article

The challenge to privacy from ever increasing state surveillance: a comparative perspective

16 Sep 2014

This article explores how internet surveillance in the name of counterterrorism challenges privacy.


International terrorism poses serious threats to the societies it affects. The counter-terrorism measures adopted since 2001 have sought to limit the advance of terrorism but, in the process, also created enormous challenges for (transnational) constitutionalism. Long-held and cherished principles relating to democracy, the rule of law and the protection of a wide range of human rights have come under increasing strain. Legislative authority to shoot down hijacked aircrafts or to use lethal drones against suspected terrorists affect the right to life; waterboarding of prisoners and other inhumane practices contravene the prohibition of torture; extraordinary renditions and black sites circumvent constitutionally protected rights and processes, including the right to freedom and security, the right to a fair trial and due process for suspected terrorists; ill-defined terrorism offences undermine the rule of law and personal freedom; blanket suspicion of Muslims as terror sympathisers impacts on freedom of religion and leads to unfair discrimination; and mass surveillance of communication sweeps away the right to privacy.

This article explores how internet surveillance in the name of counterterrorism challenges privacy. In Part II, the article analyses the international dimension of counter-terrorism measures and the conceptualisation of data protection and privacy in the European Union (‘EU’), the United States of America (‘US’) and Australia. Part III compares the different concepts of data protection and privacy, and explores the prospects of an international legal framework for the protection of privacy. Part IV concludes that work on international data protection and privacy standards, while urgently needed, remains a long-term vision with particularly uncertain prospects as far as antiterrorism and national security measures are concerned.

Publication Details
Published year only: 
Subject Areas