Privacy as Europe's first Amendment

Published date01 March 2019
Date01 March 2019
Privacy as Europe's first Amendment
Bilyana Petkova*
The protection of universal principles varies across jurisdictions: the prominence of free speech in
the United States is undisputed. My argument is that the First Amendment took off only during
the New Deal and later, the Civil Rights revolution as an identityformation and unifying tool in a
deeply divided society. The symbolic significance of free speech in the US remains central to this
day. In the midst of its identity crisis with looming Brexit, Europe is now experimenting with pri-
vacyasconstitutional identity in a similar way. This article seeks to unpack the values encompassed
in privacy and freedom of speech, looking into the different functional responses that two different
democratic societies place their bets on. As data protection and privacy come to a clash with impor-
tant trade and security interests in an evermoreglobalized world, the power of the outwardori-
ented European privacy discourse is likely to remain above all rhetorical.
The question of methodology in comparative constitutional law remains unsettled
but most comparativists would
agree that one of the central reasons
why we recur to legal comparisons in the first place is in order to extract
principles that can be adapted and applied across different legal systems; in other words, most academic comparisons
turn to be linear: we tend to compare in order to learn from one another. In this regard, it makes sense if one looks,
for example, into how privacy is protected and balanced with other rights and interests in one legal system and
compares this to the way privacy is protected and balanced in another legal system. Similarly, a traditionallegal
comparison would explore the way freedom of expression is protected and balanced in one jurisdiction visàvis
the way this is done in another. The prima facie logicalcomparison is thus to compare a human right in one legal
order to the same human right in another legal order: we compare privacy with privacy and freedom of speech with
freedom of speech.
*Assistant Professor, University of Maastricht School of Law and Visiting Fellow, Yale Information Society Project.
Scholarly agreement on comparative law methodology is scant. For a sample of different approaches, see M. Rosenfeld and A. Sajó, The Oxford Handbook of
Comparative Constitutional Law (Oxford University Press, 2012).
The other main reason is to gauge whether the system of international law converges or diverges in a certain area. See J. Scott, Extraterritoriality and Ter-
ritorial Extension in EU Law(2014) 62 American Journal of Comparative Law 1. See also B. Petkova, Domesticating the Foreignin Making Transatlantic
Data Privacy Law(2017) 15 International Journal of Constitutional Law,4.
Received: 11 December 2018 Revised: 22 February 2019 Accepted: 22 February 2019
DOI: 10.1111/eulj.12316
140 © 2019 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Eur Law J. 2019;

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