Tuesday, March 21, 2006

What is privacy?

Daniel Solove, professor at George Washington University School of Law and one of the authors of Concurring Opinions, has released a new article that asks the question "what is privacy?" Privacy means different things to different people and Prof. Solove's article tries to break down and organize the concept of privacy. Here's the link and the abstract:

Daniel J. Solove, A Taxonomy of Privacy, 154 U. Pa. L. Rev. 477 (2006)


Privacy is a concept in disarray. Nobody can articulate what it means. As one commentator has observed, privacy suffers from an embarrassment of meanings. Privacy is far too vague a concept to guide adjudication and lawmaking, as abstract incantations of the importance of privacy do not fare well when pitted against more concretely-stated countervailing interests.

In 1960, the famous torts scholar William Prosser attempted to make sense of the landscape of privacy law by identifying four different interests. But Prosser focused only on tort law, and the law of information privacy is significantly more vast and complex, extending to Fourth Amendment law, the constitutional right to information privacy, evidentiary privileges, dozens of federal privacy statutes, and hundreds of state statutes. Moreover, Prosser wrote over 40 years ago, and new technologies have given rise to a panoply of new privacy harms.

A new taxonomy to understand privacy violations is thus sorely needed. This article develops a taxonomy to identify privacy problems in a comprehensive and concrete manner. It endeavors to guide the law toward a more coherent understanding of privacy and to serve as a framework for the future development of the field of privacy law.

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