Back to main site


    Module 4: Privacy and Security Online

    The right to privacy has encountered many new challenges in the digital era. The rapid and widespread adoption of data processing has raised concerns for the protection of personal information, leading to a raft of new data protection laws being passed across the world, and efforts to engender accountability for government and private-sector-led surveillance based on invasive new technologies including facial recognition.

    It has also resulted in a need to find the appropriate balance between protecting freedom of expression by enabling anonymity and encryption online while ensuring accountability for crimes committed in the digital sphere. Generally, wholesale prohibitions on anonymity and encryption are seen as disproportionate infringements on the right to freedom of expression, and in recent years international law guidance for states and private actors on these issues has become robust.

    These digital rights challenges have particular resonance for journalists who operate online and often bear the brunt of efforts to surveil or intrude in their private communications, including facing high levels of online abuse and harassment. Women journalists are particularly targeted in this regard. It is vital that states take steps to protect journalists in the online sphere and to align their legislative frameworks with the international guidance that exists in order to ensure the protection of freedom of expression in the modern era.