My New Book, Understanding Privacy

Cover 5 medium.jpgI am very happy to announce the publication of my new book, UNDERSTANDING PRIVACY (Harvard University Press, May 2008). There has been a longstanding struggle to understand what “privacy” means and why it is valuable. Professor Arthur Miller once wrote that privacy is “exasperatingly vague and evanescent.” In this book, I aim to develop a clear and accessible theory of privacy, one that will provide useful guidance for law and policy. From the book jacket:

Privacy is one of the most important concepts of our time, yet it is also one of the most elusive. As rapidly changing technology makes information more and more available, scholars, activists, and policymakers have struggled to define privacy, with many conceding that the task is virtually impossible.

In this concise and lucid book, Daniel J. Solove offers a comprehensive overview of the difficulties involved in discussions of privacy and ultimately provides a provocative resolution. He argues that no single definition can be workable, but rather that there are multiple forms of privacy, related to one another by family resemblances. His theory bridges cultural differences and addresses historical changes in views on privacy. Drawing on a broad array of interdisciplinary sources, Solove sets forth a framework for understanding privacy that provides clear, practical guidance for engaging with relevant issues.

Understanding Privacy will be an essential introduction to long-standing debates and an invaluable resource for crafting laws and policies about surveillance, data mining, identity theft, state involvement in reproductive and marital decisions, and other pressing contemporary matters concerning privacy.

Here’s a brief summary of Understanding Privacy. Chapter 1 (available on SSRN) introduces the basic ideas of the book. Chapter 2 builds upon my article Conceptualizing Privacy, 90 Cal. L. Rev. 1087 (2002), surveying and critiquing existing theories of privacy. Chapter 3 contains an extensive discussion (mostly new material) explaining why I chose the approach toward theorizing privacy that I did, and why I rejected many other potential alternatives. It examines how a theory of privacy should account for cultural and historical variation yet avoid being too local in perspective. This chapter also explores why a theory of privacy should avoid being too general or too contextual. I draw significantly from historical examples to illustrate my points. I also discuss why a theory of privacy shouldn’t focus on the nature of the information, the individual’s preferences, or reasonable expectations of privacy. Chapter 4 consists of new material discussing the value of privacy. Chapter 5 builds on my article, A Taxonomy of Privacy, 154 U. Pa. L.. Rev. 477 (2006). I’ve updated the taxonomy in the book, and I’ve added a lot of new material about how my theory of privacy interfaces not only with US law, but with the privacy law of many other countries. Finally, Chapter 6 consists of new material exploring the consequences and applications of my theory and examining the nature of privacy harms.

Understanding Privacy is much broader than The Digital Person and The Future of Reputation. Whereas these other two books examined specific privacy problems, Understanding Privacy is a general theory of privacy, and I hope it will be relevant and useful in a wide range of issues and debates.

For more information about the book, please visit its website.

You may also like...

5 Responses

  1. paul horwitz says:

    Congratulations! I look forward to reading it, as I’m sure do all your readers on CoOp.

  2. paul horwitz says:

    Congratulations! I look forward to reading it, as I’m sure do all your readers on CoOp.

  3. Matt says:

    Man, didn’t you just publish a book? Save something for others! Really, though, congratulations!

  4. I’m going to buy it right now and look forward to reading it. BTW, how can you be so prolific? There was an article in the NYT a while back about professors who use adderall to help them focus and be productive. I have no idea what adderall is but it reminded me of stories about steroids in sports. I surely don’t expect an answer. I’m just in awe of your ability to write so much that is worth reading.

  5. Eliza says:

    Dear Professor Solove,

    Congratulations on this book which I will certainly purchase off Amazon in the weeks to come. I have just finished reading The Future of Reputation and concur with most of your arguments that privacy is not well protected on the internet. I am non-American, and the level of privacy protection in my country is much worse than in the US. I do, however, hope for better awareness and subsequently action in the issue.

    I look forward to your new book, and would like to suggest that you continue to emphasize the consequences of privacy invasion to victims, particularly from an emotional standpoint.