Privacy and Data Protection at the time of Facial Recognition: towards a new right to Digital Identity?


  • Shara Monteleone European University Institute of Florence/ JRC-IPTS, Seville


Globalisation and the development of information technologies promise to increase the quality of human communications and to foster general economic growth. What, however, is the impact of this digital evolution on fundamental rights, such as privacy or data protection (recently codified in the Lisbon Treaty) and digital identity (a possible new right in the future)?

The aim of this paper is to identify the main challenges and risks that these rights have to face within a global digital environment and, in the meantime, highlight the opportunities that human rights (HRs) protection could receive from digital technologies, if they are properly deployed.

It will consider as case-studies some significant 'digital events' of the web.2.0 era, namely the recent developments in the functionality of social networking sites (SNS), e.g. Facebook's default privacy settings and the launch of its new facial recognition system: these examples will be used as starting points for a wider discussion on the evolution of digital rights and in particular of data protection rights.

Moreover, the SNS example will offer the occasion for a reflection on the users' online attitudes concerning data protection and identity management and for a consideration of the increasing use of networked technologies in the digital environment, often relying on human physical/behavioural attributes, which strain some of the main data protection requirements (e.g. consent).

These reflections will lead to canvassing the possibility of theorising a right to digital identity, as a comprehensive right for the citizen/user of the digital era, and of implementing it by means of a suitable legal-technical approach.






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