A right to protection of an individual’s private sphere against intrusion from others, especially from the state, was laid down in an international legal instrument for the first time in Article 12 of the United Nations (UN) Universal
Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) of 1948 on respect for private and familylife.
1 The UDHR influenced the development of other human rights instruments in Europe.
1.1.1. The European Convention on Human Rights
The Council of Europe was formed in the aftermath of the Second World War to bring together the states of Europe to promote the rule of law, democracy, human rights and social development. For this purpose, it adopted the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in 1950, which entered into force in 1953. States have an international obligation to comply with the ECHR. All CoE member states have now incorporated or given effect to the ECHR in their national law, which requires them to act in accordance with the provisions of the Convention. To ensure that the Contracting Parties observe their obligations under the ECHR, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), was set up in Strasbourg, France, in 1959. The ECtHR ensures that states observe their obligations United Nations (UN), Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), 10 December 1948.
Context and background of European data protection law
under the Convention by considering complaints from individuals, groups of individuals, NGOs or legal persons alleging violations of the Convention. In 2013, the Council of Europe comprised 47 member states, 28 of which are
also EU Member States. An applicant before the ECtHR does not need to be a national of one of the member states. The ECtHR can also examine interstate cases brought by one or more CoE member states against another member state.
The right to protection of personal data forms part of the rights protected under Article 8 of the ECHR, which guarantees the right to respect for private and family life, home and correspondence and lays down the conditions under
which restrictions of this right are permitted.
Throughout its jurisprudence the ECtHR has examined many situations in which the issue of data protection arose, not least those concerning interception of communication, various forms of surveillance and protection against storage of personal data by public authorities.
It has clarified that Article 8 of the ECHR not only obliged states to refrain from any actions which might violate this Convention right, but that they were in certain circumstances also under positive obligations to actively secure effective respect for private and family life.
To access the EU Handbook on Data Protection press here.