Conceptual and Regulatory Challenges
Edited by Tjerk Timan, Bryce C. Newell and Bert-Jaap Koops
Chapter 7: Covering up: American and European legal approaches to public facial anonymity after SAS v. France
This chapter presents a critical analysis of the decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in SAS 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 chapter 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 United States is undertaken, as various US courts have ruled on the compatibility of anti-mask laws with the US Constitution. In the context of increasingly ubiquitous surveillance and blurring of the online/offline and public/private divides in contemporary society, this chapter determines the (perhaps unintended) consequences of SAS v. France for individual privacy and anonymity.
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