Understanding Privacy, Daniel J. Solove, recap part 1.

citation: Solove, D. J. (2008). Understanding privacy. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

Solove begins with a review of different ways of conceptualizing privacy. They all are too broad, too narrow or too vague.

He has brief overviews “the right to be let alone” is too vague – it doesn’t define what’s ok vs. what’s too close. “limited access to the self” because the word “access” is too narrow. Secrecy is a problem definition because it implies that if you share it with one person it isn’t private anymore, ignoring confidential relationships like friendships and family that you share but don’t share with everyone. “control over personal information” doesn’t define what “personal information” means. There are several other examples. (chap 2)

Solove analyzes the general problem is that all of these are ‘top down’ definitions and privacy is multi-faceted. His observation is to describe problems and by having family resemblances between groups of problems they can be evaluated. (hap 30

The goal is to be able to provide a better conceptual framework to discuss issues and craft legislation. The law mostly depends on tort offenses and misses the boat a lot of the time.

He discusses different ways of valuing privacy. A big observation is the value to solve privacy isn’t what it affects the individual, it can also be that it has effects on society as a whole. Different societies may be ok with different rebalancing of what’s ok vs. what’s goes too far into affecting the individual. (chap 4)

The value often of privacy is that it supports social norms and it’s not that it protects the individual. (chap 4)

Solove’s taxonomy of privacy problems has 4 categories “Information Collection”, Information Processing, Information Dissemination and Invasion. (chap 4)

Privacy problems are problems because many of them are deleterious toward the existence of a democratic society. The benefits Solove analyzes as the result of protecting privacy is  multi dimensional. (chap 6)

“that violates my privacy” is not very helpful in generating legislation which is in recap part 2.

[I’ve got minimal precise citations in this post. It’s ‘catch up’ work and not meant to be a formal essay.]


One thought on “Understanding Privacy, Daniel J. Solove, recap part 1.

  1. You elicit a major issue that often emerges with privacy problems, which is finding the balance between societal and individual interests. Sometimes individual interests in privacy conditions connect to societal interests, and that’s important for privacy justifications. For instance, my preference to not be surveilled while writing is personal, but a larger group of people would defend my preference knowing that it would lead (hopefully!) to goods useful for others–e.g., my writing will inform scholarly work elsewhere. Should I be constantly surveilled, my work output will be limited.
    When individuals claim privacy without justification–without connection to larger interests (e.g., free speech, relationship building), that’s when “we” tend to limit a right to privacy. Thus, thats why privacy rights and limits are typically connected to community and societal-level norms.


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