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The History of the Public-Private Divide in UK Individual Information Law: 1948 to 2017



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Butler, Oliver Michael 


The thesis develops an argument that, across the history of the public-private divide in individual information law, a complex set of interactions between four approaches to the public-private divide can be identified: common sets of concerns, attitudes, assumptions and tendencies that purport to justify a distinctive public-private divide in individual information law. These approaches are market, individual, state-restrictive and state-facilitative approaches. The thesis presents these complex interactions as part of a historically-grounded framework for understanding the public-private divide in information law. It identifies trends in the importance of different approaches over time and within different branches of individual information law. It also identifies the role of diverse actors in those developments. The thesis addresses two alternative tendencies encountered in the broader literature. The first is to understand the development of information law as a broad shift from a state-restrictive to a more individual approach, and within that to portray state-restrictive approaches as historical and individual approaches as modern. The second is to privilege the notion of struggle as the core mechanism of legal development in this field. The thesis addresses these tendencies in the literature by providing an account that highlights the ways in which the rise of individual approaches have also been accompanied by the resurgence of state-restrictive approaches, the endurance of state-facilitative tendencies and the broad acceptance of market approaches. It argues that struggle is only one form of interaction between the different approaches, which at various points in their history have also interacted in terms of compromise, cooperation, inspiration, catalysation, reaction, resistance, erosion, evolution, parallel coexistence, and shifts in approach over time.





Hughes, Kirsty
Erdos, David


Information Law, Privacy, Data Protection, Confidentiality, Human Rights, GDPR, ECHR, Charter of Fundamental Rights, Public-Private Divide, Public/Private Divide, Common Law Fundamental Rights, Principle of Legality


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge
ACHR Studentship