Protecting Informational Privacy in Cyberspace:
Exploring Complementary Routes
JEANNE PIA MIFSUD BONNICI*
CONTENTS:Introduction – 2. Informational Privacy – 3. Data Protection Law – 4.
Scenario 1: Negligent Loss or Theft of Personal Information – 4.1.Responsibility of Non-
state Actors for Human Rights Violations – 4.2. State Responsibility in Case of Non-
state Actor Violation of Human Rights – 5. Scenario 2: Mergers and Acquisitions – 5.1.
Personal Information as a Commercial Asset – 5.2. Competition Law – 6. Conclusion
Protecting informational privacy in cyberspace is difficult. The technical
infrastructure makes it remarkably easy to collect and use personal infor-
mation1, while there are few incentives in favour of the respect of privacy
over use of personal infor mation for commercial purposes. The Internet
and other technologies have created new opportunities for providers of
service to collect personal information easily, amass large databases of per-
sonal information and capitalize on the personal information for commer-
cial purposes. Our very presence on the Internet leaves valuable traces that
internet service providers, search engines, providers of social network sites,
credit card companies, web shops etc. can exploit at times with our consent
or our connivance or at times surreptitiously without caring to consider our
possible opposition. These providers (and users/merchants) of personal
information have become a primary threat for users’ privacy, at the same
time that the services they offer are simultaneously growingly indispensable
for many users. More than 90% of Internet users in Europe have registered
anxiety over abuse of personal infor mation online2. Governments too, may
be a threat to user privacy in the delivery of e-g overnment services and the
centralisation of personal information.
* The Author is Associate Professor and Rosalind Franklin Fellow, University of
Groningen, The Netherlands.
1P. SAMUELSON,Pri vacy as intellectual property? in “Stanford Law Review”, Vol.52, 2000, p. 1125.
2Eurobarometer Report, Confidence in the Information Society, May 2009, available at