You’re likely familiar with privacy and data protection if you’re reading this. But still, let’s start from the beginning.

Did you know that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights declared personal data privacy a human right to protect from and fight oppression, impunity, and attacks on human dignity? Honestly, I can’t think of a more important value to defend than human dignity!

Personal data protection has only been a right since World War II ended.

Personal Data Protection might sound like something new, born with GDPR, but that’s far from it.

During WWII, privacy was not widely recognised or protected as a right. Many governments and organisations engaged in widespread surveillance to gather information, more often than not, to advance their political or military goals.

The war also led to the exile and persecution of millions of people; their personal information was often weaponised and used to target and track them (it was mainly religious information, but we won’t get into that). 

During this painful time in our recent history, some European countries realised that by gathering additional personal data in their files, they were putting their citizens in harm’s way.

It was a hard reality that helped many realise the importance of the minimisation of data principle (now imposed by GDPR). And with great urgency, these countries began to set many personal records ablaze in an attempt to save countless lives. 

One of the many things we can take away from this time in history is that gathering minimal personal data, as a principle, helps save human dignity and lives. History has proven that collecting the least amount of personal data is the safest and most ethical way of doing things (in the private and in the public sphere). 

It was only until after the war that privacy was finally recognised as a fundamental human right, with the passing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 and data protection laws in various countries.

The European Union also recognises the right to personal data protection in Article 8 of its Charter of Fundamental Rights. This article, approved in 2007, is based on a 1980 EU regulation and states that:

‘everyone has the right to the protection of their personal data and the right to have it processed fairly for specified purposes, with their consent or on another legitimate legal basis.’ 

It also gives individuals the right to access their personal data and have it corrected and states that an independent authority must monitor these rules. 

While privacy and data protection laws have become more relevant in the last few years, there’s more work to do to ensure the safety and protection of personal data in the digital world. 

Do you feel protected entering a new website asking for consent to track and use your personal data for unclear purposes? 

Do we fully understand what these websites are asking of us? 

As a lawyer and a human, I hope the new regulations will effectively protect our rights as humans; our right to life, freedom, private property, and the protection of our personal data! 

Follow our Privacy Basics Series for interesting facts, history and much more.