The best books about privacy

Daniel J. Solove Author Of Understanding Privacy
By Daniel J. Solove

The Books I Picked & Why

Privacy's Blueprint: The Battle to Control the Design of New Technologies

By Woodrow Hartzog

Book cover of Privacy's Blueprint: The Battle to Control the Design of New Technologies

Why this book?

Privacy’s Blueprint presents a deep, vivid, and concrete account of how technology companies design devices, websites, and software in ways that diminish privacy. Design choices are frequently clandestine, built so that people don’t notice them or how they are being pushed and manipulated into sharing more data or making choices that surrender their privacy. With clear and engaging examples, Hartzog illuminates these shadowy designs and shows how they work. He contends that privacy law can’t be effective unless it regulates design. According to Hartzog, design can be regulated in ways that aren’t overly controlling or stifling to innovation. This is a great book, filled with countless insights, and it is highly accessible. 


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Hate Crimes in Cyberspace

By Danielle Keats Citron

Book cover of Hate Crimes in Cyberspace

Why this book?

Hate Crimes in Cyberspace begins with a series of horror stories, showing in the most compelling and visceral way the harm caused by online harassment. Citron shows us that online harassment is disproportionately focused on women and marginalized people. Far from rare, the harassment is frighteningly prevalent. The harassers make vile threats of rape and murder, post nude photos, engage in doxing, and spew disturbing messages of hate. All the more terrifying is that the people seething with hatred are not in a distant faraway land. They are here among us; they are professionals, students, and others that appear polite in person. 

After opening our eyes to this harrowing shadowy world, Citron discusses how the law ought to respond. She argues that civil rights law can effectively address the problem – but the law must evolve to make this happen.  She also thoughtfully explores how protections against harassment don’t infringe upon free speech but, in fact, promote it.  


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Why Privacy Matters

By Neil Richards

Book cover of Why Privacy Matters

Why this book?

I had a hard time choosing which book by Richards to include, as his earlier book, Intellectual Privacy, is a superb discussion about how privacy is essential for our expression and consumption of ideas. In Why Privacy Matters, Richards broadens his focus to discuss other reasons why privacy is important. He debunks common myths, such as privacy is dying or privacy is about creepiness. In an eloquent and clear way, Richards explains why privacy matters for our identity, freedom, and protection. This book powerfully shows that how we think about privacy is essential to effectively safeguarding it. Richards writes in an engaging and accessible way, but his book has tremendous depth and insight. 


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Uneasy Access

By Anita L. Allen

Book cover of Uneasy Access

Why this book?

Anita Allen is one of the pioneers of privacy law who began exploring privacy issues long before most others. She holds a PhD in philosophy, and in all her books, she explores privacy in a rich theoretical way but also a personal way too. Deeply humanistic, her work is thought-provoking and wide-ranging. I could have listed many of her great books, but the one that stands out the most to me is Uneasy Access. One of the earliest books written about privacy, Uneasy Access discusses privacy in the most illuminating way. The book makes an enormous contribution in discussing the role that privacy plays in women’s lives, but its conceptual work on privacy provides such clarity that it makes this book one of the best theoretical discussions of privacy across all contexts. 


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Industry Unbound: The Inside Story of Privacy, Data, and Corporate Power

By Ari Ezra Waldman

Book cover of Industry Unbound: The Inside Story of Privacy, Data, and Corporate Power

Why this book?

Ari Waldman’s Industry Unbound eviscerates many of the current privacy laws and corporate privacy programs. On the surface, we appear to be living in the golden age of privacy law. Privacy laws are being passed at a feverish rate. Many companies now have dedicated teams of individuals who build a privacy program at the company to comply with the laws, assess privacy risks, train employees, and ensure that products and services are designed in ways that are protective of privacy. Unfortunately, Waldman contends, these privacy programs are hollow. They amount to building a meaningless paper record and end up cloaking poor privacy practices with a pretty facade. Even those who do not agree with the potency of Waldman’s critique must take note of the concerns he raises. His arguments are essential to engage with.  


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