The Rights of Privacy in the Digital Era
Thu, 20 Jun 2019 || By Theodore Great

Privacy in the digital era has been a vague concept. Every day we give our consent for large companies to gain our data in exchange for the services they provide. The aggregate of these data could be used for massive to micro surveillance. Big data has enabled people to identify the hidden pattern of people’s habits, routines, and preferences. This knowledge could then be used to manipulate people from choosing to buy something they do not need or in terms of voting. As a result, the rights of privacy has now been introduced to combat these exploitations of our data.

Q1: What is the right of privacy?

The right of privacy is actually not something new. It is based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 and the International Covenant on  Civil and Political Rights, which was in force since 1976[i] . Article 17 of the covenant mentioned that “ (1) No one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honor and reputation. (2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.”[ii] Nevertheless, due to the rise of digitalization which leads to the emergence of digital threats towards privacy, in 2013, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) brought the topic to the discussion and adopted the resolution of 68/1976 which outlines the right of privacy in the digital age[iii]. The document highlights that privacy should be protected both in the online and offline world[iv].

Q2: How to enforce the right of privacy?

There are several measures that are recommended by the UNGA on how to protect the rights of privacy. Firstly, the rights of privacy must be upheld in all platforms of online and offline. Secondly, regulations to prevent and resolve the violations towards rights of privacy primarily in digital realms. Lastly, all of the existing practices such as current regulations and collection of data must be analyzed whether it already complies with the principles of international human rights regulations[v]. Most of these recommendations are given to the state as the main actor. Another important aspect of enforcement is the collaboration between the various stakeholders, namely the international organization, the state, the private sector, and civil society. The highlight is given towards private companies on the issue of transparency about how they handle the customer’s data. The Human Rights Council panel discussion on the topic has agreed on this framework but still addressed that more must be done especially on the national level[vi].

Q3: Could it actually be implemented?

The international covenant has been able to gather worldwide attention on the issue of digital privacy. Until today there is already 172 state party that has ratified and implement the international covenant in their local law[vii]. However, the global nature of the treaties makes the content very general in nature. As a result, it is up to the smaller actors such as state and business actors especially the big-giants of the Silicon Valley to create practical action towards protecting digital privacy. Some states have started to regulate digital privacy. For examples, the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, the United Kingdom’s Data Protection Act, and the Personal Data Protection Act in Malaysia. In Indonesia, the regulations that define and protect data privacy is mainly Regulation Number 23 the year 2006 about Citizen’s Administration and Article 1 of the Information and Technology Legislation[viii]. Besides the existence of legislation, an important part is the understanding of the legislation. Citizens must be knowledgeable about the content of these legislations and able to conduct actions based on them such as on how to file a case against a big corporate when customer data is being stolen or illegally used

Editor: Anaq Duanaiko

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[i] Universal Declaration of Human Rights.[online] Available at: [Accessed 28 May 2019].

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.[online] Available at: [Accessed 28 May 2019].

[ii] International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.[online] Available at: [Accessed 28 May 2019].

[iii] The right to privacy in the digital age l Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 18 December 2013.[online] Available at: [Accessed 28 May 2019].

[iv] Ibid.

[v] Ibid.

[vi] Human Rights Council, 2014. Summary of the Human Rights Council panel discussion on the right to privacy in the digital age. Available at: [Accessed 28 May 2019].

[vii] OHCHR, 2019. OHCHR Dashboard. [online] Available at: [Accessed 28 May 2019].

[viii]  Undang-Undang Republik Indonnesia Nomor 19 Tahun 2016 tentang Informasi dan Transaksi Elektronik.[online] Available at: .

Undang-Undang Republik Indonnesia Nomor 23 Tahun 2006 tentang Administrasi Kependudukan.[online] Available at: .