Expanding Conceptions of Privacy: A Comparative Analysis of the United States Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights

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The Ohio State University

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Everyone wants their privacy rights protected, but when it comes to the extent of the protections and how they are enacted, significant questions arise. Both the United States Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights decide cases that involve the right to privacy; however, the levels of privacy protections and the approach to handling these cases differ in each court. Often, strict standards and tests within the courts do not exist which can lead to confusion or gaps in privacy protections. My study examines the state of privacy protections as addressed by the Supreme Court and European Court of Human Rights, analyzes explanations for the differences that exist, and offers suggestions for ways in which the right can develop in each area. After reviewing previous scholarship and a variety of court cases that concern two specific areas of privacy, I have systematically compared the levels of protection that exist for a variety of issues involving privacy. From there, I have developed a set of hypotheses that aim to explain why the differences between the protections in the U.S. and Europe exist. I will test these hypotheses using selected surveys as well as information about the nature of each culture’s attitudes towards certain conceptions of privacy, trust in government, the existence of support structures, and the legitimacy of court rulings, among others. It is my goal to utilize my results to address the ways in which each geographic area can enhance its protection of privacy rights and ultimately more robustly protect the fundamental rights of its citizens.



privacy, european court, supreme court