The rapid growth of internet users in the 21 st century posed a serious challenge for the protection of right to privacy in digital age. The advent of various technologies at the global level made the online users more vulnerable. The current international legal framework for right to privacy is founded on instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

It has also been echoed in different regional human rights declarations. The concept of right to privacy has been encountering a new phenomenon with the advent of massive upsrung of
informational technology in 21st century which we describe as digital age. The new generation of technologies posed a serious challenge to the existing international legal framework protecting right to privacy. In response to the growing violations of privacy in digital age, the UN General Assembly adopted its third resolution on the right to privacy in the digital age in December 2016. However, privacy legislation of Bangladesh has not kept up with these developments, though the total number of Internet Subscribers has reached 80.829 million at the end of January, 2018. Every single online activity of users results in the compromise with some sort of privacy issues. Continuous development in digital communication systems and growing concerns over surveillance, data sharing has led to a stronger focus on right to privacy within national legal framework.

The main purpose of right to privacy is to protect the dignity of human being. Whether the threat is national or international citizens need to have available safeguards and judicial remedies. Though article 43 of the constitution of Bangladesh recognizes right to privacy as fundamental rights but the existing literature omits whether its scope is also extended in digital age. While there is no comprehensive domestic law relating to right to privacy in digital age, this right is rarely protected in the present legal paradigm. In Bangladesh right to privacy in digital age is addressed with reference to several laws, including the Information and Communication Technology Act, 2006; the Penal Code, 1860; the Pornography Act, 2012; and the Bangladesh Telecommunication Act, 2001. These enactments provide very limited avenues to guarantee right to privacy in digital age. In the meantime, European and some other countries updated their national legislations to encounter the emerging challenges. This paper is a modest first ever approach to examine whether the present legal framework of Bangladesh is in compliance with international obligations regarding the right to privacy in digital age.

Against this backdrop, the paper has been divided into three parts. The first part provides an overview of the right to privacy in digital age and highlights developments in the recent international human rights law instruments. The Second part outlines whether the present legislations of Bangladesh are adequate enough to ensure right to privacy in digital age. This
chapter then examines how European and other countries are accumulating this development in their respective national legislations. The last part recommends that Bangladesh needs to update its national laws to ensure right to privacy in digital age to comply with international standards.

The right to privacy has a far-reaching spheres. Privacy is a complex concept that has been difficult to define. Right to privacy has been recognized as one of the fundamental rights in the constitution of Bangladesh. This right generally aims to protect the privacy of one’s home and correspondence subject to reasonable restrictions imposed by law.

Despite being recognized as one of the universal human rights in the last century, the concept of right to privacy has remained unsettled. Different norms of privacy can exist in different spheres of life. The multiple ideas and conceptions conveyed can be approached from three interdependent clusters. The first cluster concerns physical space, which refers to the extent to which an individual’s physical space is protected from undesired invasion. The second cluster concerns making a choice, referring to an individual’s ability to make certain significant decisions without external interference; i.e. to personal autonomy. The third cluster concerns ‘information privacy’, or the flow of personal information, and refers to an individual’s control over the processing of personal information, including acquisition, disclosure, and use in different forms and for different purposes. In this third sense, the right to privacy refers to the ability of individuals to determine who has information about them and how that information is used. The “cultural dependent” concept of privacy should be interpreted distinctly with new jurisdictions due to emergence of new social pattern and life experience by numerous modern technologies in the digital age. Internet and other digital devices like smartphones, GPS system and surveillance camera as well collection of mega information from them have become a usual practices of modern life. This practices require a re-thinking of conventional concept of privacy which is now largely viewed as informational privacy. At the same time the of scope invasion increasing rapidly to this right.

Rapidly growing digital technologies in 21 st century pose a great threat for right to privacy.
Unlimited spread of digital technologies by facilitating easy route for collecting, saving, sharing, and comparing information has compromise the contours of right to privacy. Digital technology has transformed the means through which human rights are both exercised and violated around the globe. Noting that the rapid pace of technological development enables individuals all over the world to use information and communications technology and at the same time enhances the capacity of governments, business enterprises and individuals to undertake surveillance, interception and data collection, which may violate or abuse human rights, in particular the right to privacy, as set out in article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and is therefore an issue of increasing concern.

With the inception of internet activity at the global level, international community took several legal steps to tackle the right to privacy in the digital age. The present chapter examines the existing international legal framework to ensure the right in digital age. On the international level privacy is protected within two major instruments, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights (ICCPR).

Writer: Md.Riaduzzaman, Assistant Professor

RMG sector in Bangladesh

August 28, 2022