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Oxford University Press




The average Englishman's habits of reserve and regard for his own privacy are legendary. It is surprising, therefore, that English courts have, until very recently, shown great reluctance to recognize privacy as an interest worthy of legal protection in its own right. The experience of other common law countries has not been the same; privacy law has flourished in the United States' and has gained a foothold in Australia and Canada. Moreover, a right to privacy has received international recognition in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights. Yet in England, Parliament has refused on a number of occasions to enact broad privacy protections, and the courts have been slow to find a grounding for privacy in the common law and in constitutional principles as the American courts have done. Judicial pronouncements in the past few years, however, have come closer and closer to recognition of a general privacy interest protected at common law as one of the rights of every English subject. It is instructive to compare the state of American law on the verge of its acceptance of a right to privacy.

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