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All Quiet on the Domestic Front The Household Exemption, Private and Public Spheres, and Social Media: The Third Theater of the Privacy Wars

Jackson, Gabriel

In 1995, the European Union adopted the Data Protection Directive, the principal statute governing data privacy within the E.U. In its so-called Household Exemption, the Directive excludes “natural persons [acting] in the course of a purely personal or household activity” from any legal obligation to abide by data protection laws in the E.U., an inconsequential exemption in 1995 that has since become a key cog in the debate over individual privacy. Technological innovation over the past twenty years has radically expanded the private individual’s capacity for processing personal data, affording natural persons many of the powers previously restricted to professionals and corporations. Problems have arisen from the misinformed view that those new powers of the individual should fall under the Household Exemption. The common thread is a misconception of what constitutes the sphere of private life that the Exemption is meant to protect. At the crux of the matter is a lack of definition as to what constitutes a purely personal or household activity in this age of increased individual processing power. In this paper, I shall take a deep dive into the history of the Household Exemption’s formation, ultimately proving the Exemption’s sole focus to be the protection of the individual’s private life. With that insight in mind, I shall examine the ways in which the Exemption has come to be misinterpreted, finishing with a suggested modification of the Household Exemption intended to remove all interpretive doubt. While not propounded to be a decisive, flawless resolution of the issue, I hope that my proposal and the underlying work, at a minimum, add an original and unique historical perspective to the discourse.

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Academic Units
Institute for the Study of Human Rights
Degree
B.A., Columbia University
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