Covering Up: American and European Legal Approaches to Public Facial Anonymity after S.A.S. v France
Tjerk Timan, Bryce C. Newell, and Bert-Jaap Koops (eds) Privacy in Public Space: Regulatory and Legal Challenges (Edward Elgar, 2017)
16 Pages Posted: 10 Dec 2016 Last revised: 21 Jan 2018
Date Written: December 9, 2016
This chapter presents a critical analysis of the European Court of Human Rights’ (ECtHR) decision in S.A.S v France. The implications of the case, concerning the French ban on face coverings, for Muslim women’s religious freedom are well known and have been discussed extensively in the literature. However, one important privacy implication that has been overlooked is the legality of covering one’s face in public, regardless of motivation. The article explores the case’s implications for privacy in public spaces, in the context of the ECtHR’s jurisprudence on privacy more generally. A comparative analysis with the US is undertaken, as various US courts have ruled on the compatibility with anti-mask laws with the Constitution. In the context of increasingly ubiquitous surveillance and blurring of the online/offline and public/private divides in contemporary society, this article determines the (perhaps unintended) consequences of S.A.S v France for individual privacy and anonymity.
Keywords: anonymity, privacy, surveillance, free expression, facial recognition, veil, niqab, anti-mask laws
JEL Classification: N34, K00, K14, K36, K42
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation