Privacy is acknowledged as an essential human right, recognized by a number of international declarations, among which the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights are the most significant. Interpreting these provisions, the European Court of Human Rights provides important guidance in respect of the attempt to balance privacy against competing rights and interests, and this is briefly discussed. Leading decisions of the courts of various jurisdictions illustrate the problems of definition and the attempt to balance privacy against other competing rights. Cases before the US Supreme Court have generated an enormous, divisive debate concerning, in particular, the subject of abortion, which the Court has conceived to be an element of the right to privacy. A discussion of the celebrated US Supreme Court judgement in Roe v Wade is fundamental to an analysis of the meaning and limits of individual privacy.