Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Privacy Definition:

A person's right to control access to his or her personal information.

Related Terms: Open Fields Doctrine, Personal Information, Publicity, Intrusion Upon Seclusion, Curtilage, Sexting, Right to be Forgotten

Gillian Black, in her 2011 book on Publicity rights, proposes that privacy is the desire of an individual to be free of intrusion.

In the European Convention on Human Rights, the following can be found at §8(1):

"Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence."

Privacy signSimilarly, in R v Edwards, ¶49, Justice Cory of Canada's Supreme Court used these words to define privacy:

"... the state or condition of being alone, undisturbed, or free from public attention, as a matter of choice or right; freedom from interference or intrusion.

"An important aspect of privacy is the ability to exclude others from the premises. The right to be free from intrusion or interference is a key element of privacy."

Privacy is often raised in the context of government collection or distribution of personal information. In this regard, these words of Justice Dickson in R v Duarte in a criminal case involving a wire-tap:

"Privacy may be defined as the right of the individual to determine when, how, and to what extent he or she will release personal information. A reasonable expectation of privacy demands that an individual may proceed on the assumption that the state may only violate this right by recording private communications on a clandestine basis when it has established to the satisfaction of a detached judicial officer that an offence has been or is being committed and that interception of private communications stands to afford evidence of the offence."


  • Black, Gillian, Publicity Rights and Image (Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2011), page 61-62
  • R v Duarte (also R v Sanelli) (1990) 1 SCR 39
  • R v Edwards (1996) 1 SCR 128

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