Privacy in Cyberworld: Why Lock the Gate After the Horse Has Bolted?
In this paper, the author sets out to critique the way in which the principles of off-line privacy protection apply in an on-line environment. The UK approach will be focused upon, the objective being to consider what (non-celebrity) on-line claimants might expect in bringing a privacy violation claim through the domestic courts. The essential characteristics of communicating on-line will be examined so as to explore the nature of an action in misuse of private information and the potential hurdles that require to be overcome before a claim in privacy violation can be remedied at common law. It will be argued that, whilst claims by private, unknown individuals against one another are likely to take up increased amounts of judicial time, the common law approach represents little more than a warning, and a tepid one at best, to on-line communicators about the dangers of publishing private information in on-line forums. Moreover, the derisory level of damages available for even the most deserving of claimants hardly makes the trip to court worthwhile. Whilst an alternative approach, based on the inclusion of discursive remedies, might make the derisory level of damages more palatable, the practical problems of such an approach mean that, for the time being at least, the taking of a privacy case to open court in exchange for only a limited remedy at common law, therefore, smacks of locking the gate after the horse has bolted.
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