Private law rights in the digital era

AuthorSophie Canas
PositionMagistrat, Conseiller référendaire à la Cour de Cassation
[2018] Irish Judicial Studies Journal Vol 2(1) 41
Sophie Canas
Magistrat, Conseiller référendaire à la Cour de Cassation
The digital revolution is often presented as constituting, along with the invention
of writing and the printing press, an essential step in the history of mankind. It
has profoundly changed our behaviour, our ways of life and even our
understanding of reality. Legislatures and the courts had to quickly deal with the
consequences of these changes, wherever possible, by using already established
concepts or by creating new legal categories.
There have thus been numerous developments in the context of private law. For
example, under French law, the civil code has admitted electronic documents
which have the same probative force as written documents; the consumer code
has introduced specific protective mechanisms for the benefit of consumers who
purchases goods or takes out a loan online; the labour code has taken new ways
of working into consideration, such as telecommuting. These developments are
of course important; they do not, however, constitute real transformations, but
rather they show us how private law has adapted itself to our technological
Other rights have, however, undergone more profound changes, such as the
right to privacy and the extension of this right to include the protection of
personal data, which I will focus on. Both have changed with the advent of the
The right to privacy
The right to respect for private life is affirmed in numerous international and
European texts. We only need to refer to Article 8 of the European Convention
on Human Rights and Article 7 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the
European Union. In France, Article 9 of the civil code solemnly affirms that:
Everyone has the right to respect for his private life. While the right to privacy
was first exclusively considered as providing protection against public or private
intrusions within the sphere of intimacy of each individual, it is also now
understood, under the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, as a

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