Author ORCID Identifier


Document Type


Publication Date



Data privacy, European Union, GDPR, European Convention on Human Rights, Personal data


Laws protecting a European's right to control the flow of their own personal data (also known as "data privacy") date back as early as 1950. In the 65 years since the Council of Europe declared that every person has the fundamental "right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence," a patchwork of conventions, directives, treaties and communications have been created to ensure the ongoing protection of this right. However, in recent years, this patchwork approach has been unable to keep up with the pace of technology and has created confusion and concern for the sanctity of what is considered a fundamental human right in the European Union.

On January 25, 2012, something profound happened to data protection in the EU. For that was the day the European Commission proposed a massive overhaul of the data protection framework first begun in 1950 and has been continuously growing and evolving ever since. If enacted, the proposed "General Data Protection Regulation" will fundamentally shift the way the 28 European member nations currently protect their citizen's privacy from one of being done at a national level to potentially one being protected at a supranational level.

This article provides an overview of some of the significant documents that created the current patchwork of laws in force in the European Union as well as an introduction the proposed regulation that could change it all. An appendix is included at the end of the article which provides short descriptions of the major bodies involved in data protection governance as well as a glossary of terms used in the article. A bibliography about data privacy and data protection is forthcoming in a future issue of lnternational Journal of Legal Information.

First Page


Publication Title

International Journal of Legal Information


© 2015 Christina Glon.