Masks, Face Veil Bans and “Living Together”

What’s Privacy Got to Do with It?

doi: 10.53116/pgaflr.2021.2.2


The “living together” concept poses a puzzle. Why did Europeans decide that life in a modern democracy requires showing one’s face? One explanation is opposition to Muslims and Islam. But the enforcement of face veil bans against non-religious mask wearing raises doubts. This essay poses an alternative explanation. What if the face veil bans persist because of European conceptions of privacy? Von Hannover v. Germany held that one be private in public. Given this, why wear a mask? What is there to hide? To explore this idea, the essay turns to the United States, where one cannot be “private in public” and mask wearing has been opposed on narrow grounds such as public security and the content of specific masks. At the same time, the United States respects the decisional privacy of someone to wear a mask even for “irrational” reasons, something the “living together” idea tends to ignore.


masks face veils living together privacy Von Hannover v. Germany

How to Cite

Kahn, R. (2022). Masks, Face Veil Bans and “Living Together”: What’s Privacy Got to Do with It?. Public Governance, Administration and Finances Law Review, 6(2), 7–20.


Brems, E. et al. (2014). The Belgian “burqa ban” confronted with insider realities. In E. Brems (Ed.), The Experiences of Face Veil Wearers in Europe and the Law (pp. 77–114). Cambridge University Press. Online:

Edwards, S. S. M. (2014). No Burqas We’re French! The Wide Margin of Appreciation and the ECtHR Burqa Ruling. Denning Law Journal, 26, 246–260. Online:

Gabriel, S. (2014, May 14). Unsere politischen Konsequenzen aus der Google-Debatte. FAZ.

Giles, B. (2017, August 23). Legislator to draft law to unmask protesters he compares to Ku Klux Klan. Arizona Capitol Times. Online:

Johnson, J. H. (2001). Versailles, meet Les Halles: Masks, carnival, and the French Revolution. Representations, (73), 89–116. Online:

Judkis, M. (2017, August 14). Charlottesville White Nationalist Demonstrator Loses Job at a Libertarian Hot Dog Shop. The Washington Post. Online:

Kahn, R. (2019a). The Long Road Back to Skokie: Returning the First Amendment to Mask Wearers. Brooklyn Journal of Law and Policy, 28 (1), 71–149. Online:

Kahn, R. (2019b). Mask bans as expressions of memory politics in the United States. Online:

Kahn, R. (2020). Masks, culture wars, and public health expertise: Confessions of a mask “expert”. University of St. Thomas Legal Studies, Working Paper, No. 20-08. Online:

Kahn, R. (2021). “My face, my choice?” Mask mandates, bans, and burqas in the COVID age. New York University Journal of Law and Liberty, 14 (3), 651–708.

Kahn, R. A. (2011). Are Muslims the new Catholics? Europe’s headscarf laws in comparative political perspective. University of St. Thomas Legal Studies, Working Paper, No. 20-08.

Kashmir, J. (2020, January 18). The secretive company that may end privacy as we know it. The New York Times, updated 18 March 2021. Online:

Lawrence, C. V. et al. (2020). Masking up: A COVID-19 face-off between anti-mask laws and mandatory mask orders for black Americans. California Law Review, 11, 479–516. Online:

Mastrangelo, D. (2021, April 27). Tucker Carlson: “Contact child protective services” if you see kids wearing masks outdoors. The Hill. Online:

Mechoulan, S. (2018). The case against the face-veil: A European perspective. International Journal of Constitutional Law, 16 (4), 1267–1292. Online:

Michaels, R. (2018). Banning burqas: The perspective of postsecular comparative law. Duke Journal of Comparative and International Law, 28, 213–245.

Mitsutoshi H. (2014). Why Do the Japanese Wear Masks. Electronic Journal of Contemporary Japanese Studies, 14 (2).

Shakargy, S. (2020). You name it: On the cross-border regulation of names. American Journal of Comparative Law, 68 (3), 647–688. Online:

Skinner-Thompson, S. (2017). Performative privacy. University of California Davis Law Review, 50 (4), 1673–1740.

Solove, D. J., & Schwarz, P. M. (Eds.) (2017). Information Privacy Law. Aspen.

Strucke, J. (2006, October 6). Straw: “I’d rather no one wore veils”. The Guardian. Online:

Westin, A. (1967). Privacy and Freedom. Atheneum.

Whitman, J. Q. (2004). The two Western cultures of privacy: Dignity versus liberty. Yale Law Journal, 113, 1151–1221. Online:


Download data is not yet available.