It has often been described as the right to “be let alone”. It is part of various legal systems and places constraints both governmental as well as corporate action against persons if it transgresses or violates their privacy.
Although based philosophically on the theory of natural rights, it needs frequent adaptation to changing information and communication technologies. Debate continues on whether the right to privacy is to defined as a separate legal right by itself or to be based on existing laws relating to it.
Defining or crystalizing the right to privacy involves identification of what is it that belongs to oneself as opposed to the public sphere and the ways and limitations in drawing lines between the former and latter. Typically the right comprises the self, the body, home, thoughts, feelings, property and identity as being subject to propriety of an individual.
Alan Westin, a key thinker in the field of privacy law, pointed out that privacy is one concern out of three, the other two being surveillance and disclosure, such that all three are necessary. He described four states of privacy: anonymity, intimacy, reserve and solitude.
The right to privacy is explicitly established under Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.”