Is the Human Rights Framework Still Fit for the Big Data Era? A Discussion of the ECtHR’s Case Law on Privacy Violations Arising from Surveillance Activities

Part of the Law, Governance and Technology Series book series (LGTS, volume 24)


Human rights protect humans. This seemingly uncontroversial axiom might become quintessential over time, especially with regard to the right to privacy. Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights grants natural persons a right to complain, in order to protect their individual interests, such as those related to personal freedom, human dignity and individual autonomy. With Big Data processes, however, individuals are mostly unaware that their personal data are gathered and processed and even if they are, they are often unable to substantiate their specific individual interest in these large data gathering systems. When the European Court of Human Rights assesses these types of cases, mostly revolving around (mass) surveillance activities, it finds itself stuck between the human rights framework on the one hand and the desire to evaluate surveillance practices by states on the other. Interestingly, the Court chooses to deal with these cases under Article 8 ECHR, but in order to do so, it is forced to go beyond the fundamental pillars of the human rights framework.


Human rights Big data Mass surveillance Individual harm Societal interest Conventionality 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Instituut Voor Informatierecht (IViR)AmsterdamNetherlands

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