Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Describing privacy

When I give presentations and teach about privacy, I always start with a discussion of "what is privacy". The concept means very different things to people, depending upon their background and the baggage they bring to the discussion. to help us wade through this, Daniel Solove, of George Washington University Law School has written an article in the U. Penn Law Review that addresses the vocabulary and taxonomy of the slippery concept of privacy:

SSRN-A Taxonomy of Privacy by Daniel Solove:

"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. "

Thanks to Bruce Schneier for the link: Schneier on Security: A Taxonomy of Privacy.

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