As comparative lawyer Otto Kahn-Freund observed in the mid-1970s, there is a ‘far reaching free trade in legal ideas. Far reaching, not all embracing’. We see this manifested in the law of privacy, whether understood in the traditional sense of freedom from intrusion into private life or some more extended sense of, for instance, control over personal information or physical or sensory integrity stretching beyond the enjoyment of an intimate interior private life. On the one hand, there is a great deal of cross-fertilisation across jurisdictions as elements of the law of one are copied in others, allowing certain broad groupings to evolve. On the other hand, there are still many differences between and within these groupings which may be partly due to the different legal contexts of the laws, but are also partly due to factors having to do with different social-cultural histories and norms, as well as different political environments within which laws are developed, interpreted, and enforced. These tensions have ongoing implications for the protection of privacy in the digital century. Yet there are hopeful signs of the possibility of convergence around legal standards of privacy protection in the future, as in the present and past – for all the legal, social-cultural and political differences that remain and for all the new challenges to privacy that we can expect to see.
Richardson, Megan, A Common Law of Privacy? (March 2021). Singapore Journal of Legal Studies, March 2021, pp 6-18.