It is an important feature of contemporary society and one which is set to grow as network technologies, such as the Internet, enable us to communicate almost instantaneously with organizations and individuals regardless of geographical location. For example, it is because of the emergence of a ‘borderless’ society that law enforcement agencies increasingly seek to be exempted from the full rigors of the privacy laws. That this kind of exemption can lead, in turn, to misuse and abuse of these powers is perhaps one of the ‘costs’ we have to bear if law enforcement agencies generally are to be effective in combating crime in the information age.
However, before evaluating how ethically right is the State’s intervention in the privacy of the members of the society for its proposed public interests, the very terminology of “Privacy” needs to be understood.The extensive material the n literature on the definition of Privacy reveals that the term’s meaning differs under various approaches to privacy offered by different scholars. Privacy’s most widely spread definition has been coined by Warren & Brandeis (1890, p. 205) who define privacy, as an intrinsic value, the “right to be let alone” (Stahl, 2007). Another approach to define privacy by (Stalder, 2002) is that of informational self-determination which sees privacy as the right to determine who accesses person-related data. This interpretation is widely spread in continental Europe whereby privacy may be taken in terms of property which includes the protection of an individual’s financial records, health records, ex-directory telephone numbers, criminal records, etc.
If person-related information can be treated as property, then privacy issues can be reduced to the more established (intellectual) property law as Spinello (2000) puts it.