UC Law SF International Law Review


Data privacy law varies widely across jurisdictions worldwide. Amidst sophistries and jurisdictional conflicts between lawmakers in Europe and the United States, a largely unregulated cross-border data industry emerged, prepared to exploit an unaware or overwhelmed general public. Without governmental support, privacy itself is in grave danger. The people, as true bearers of the fundamental right to privacy, must be put back in control of their data by governments that are aware of their ever-conflicting roles as protectors and aggressors. Scholars like Ari Ezra Waldman, in its book “Industry Unbound,” have criticized the common notice and consent approach to privacy as mere performance, calling for more governmental regulation instead of private enforcement. What they often overlook is the international dimension of the issue at hand, the specific and complex history of privacy as a philosophical and legal concept, and the inherent need to ultimately put people in control, not governments.

By recollecting the function and value of privacy, of data, and of corresponding legislation, lawmakers all over the world might be able to enter into a new era of privacy awareness. This article explores possible solutions from an international perspective, based on the historical and philosophical foundations of privacy itself, and a comparison between the privacy history of the United States, Germany, and the European Union.