The best books on the right to privacy

Many authors have picked their favorite books about the right to privacy and why they recommend each book.

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Discriminating Data

By Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, Alex Barnett (illustrator),

Book cover of Discriminating Data: Correlation, Neighborhoods, and the New Politics of Recognition

Digital technology, like technology generally, is commonly assumed to be value neutral. Wendy Chun reveals that structurally embedded in digital operating systems and data collection are values that reproduce and extend existing modes of discriminating while also originating new ones. In prompting and promoting the grouping together of people who are alike—in habits, culture, looks, and preferences—the logic of the algorithm reproduces and amplifies discriminatory trends. Chun reveals how the logics of the digital reinforce the restructuring of racism by the neoliberal turn that my own book lays out.


Who am I?

I grew up and completed the formative years of my college education in Cape Town, South Africa, while active also in anti-apartheid struggles. My Ph.D. dissertation in the 1980s focused on the elaboration of key racial ideas in the modern history of philosophy. I have published extensively on race and racism in the U.S. and globally, in books, articles, and public media. My interests have especially focused on the transforming logics and expressions of racism over time, and its updating to discipline and constrain its conventional targets anew and new targets more or less conventionally. My interest has always been to understand racism in order to face it down.


I wrote...

The Threat of Race: Reflections on Racial Neoliberalism

By David Theo Goldberg,

Book cover of The Threat of Race: Reflections on Racial Neoliberalism

What is my book about?

Modern states are racially structured. They become modern by assuming the structures of racial arrangement. But these arrangements are not static. As political economy shifts over time so do the conditions of racial structure. From the 1980s, neoliberalism deregulated economic activity within and across states globally, while ramping up the regulation of social order through the funding of repressive state apparatuses such as the military and police. Personal responsibility was emphasized above all in the face of the financialization of all social choices. Racial reference was erased which, rather than ending racism, rendered it less nameable, if not invisible. The book traces these developments across five regions because of the variations but especially because the threat of racism anywhere is shored up by racism elsewhere.

Exposed

By Bernard E. Harcourt,

Book cover of Exposed: Desire and Disobedience in the Digital Age

Harcourt’s Exposed takes the reader inside the contemporary social, political, and legal configurations that haunt our online lives by paradoxically pulling on the strings of our desires and wants. Harcourt exposes how the insidious technologies of mega-cap high-tech coax out of us a desire to expose ourselves, that too-familiar desire to share so much (and so often too much) online. Harcourt is one of the leading voices in contemporary critical theory and at the same time a practicing death-penalty lawyer. He knows both the inside of our political-legal systems and can gain a broad view of the wider social dynamics of social media. 


Who am I?

Colin Koopman researches and teaches about technology ethics at the University of Oregon, where he is a Professor of Philosophy and Director of the interdisciplinary certificate program in New Media & Culture.  His research pursuits have spanned from the history of efforts in the early twentieth century to standardize birth certificates to our understanding of ourselves as effects of the code inscribed into our genes.  Koopman is currently at work on a book that will develop our understanding of what it takes to achieve equality and fairness in data systems, tentatively titled Data Equals.


I wrote...

How We Became Our Data: A Genealogy of the Informational Person

By Colin Koopman,

Book cover of How We Became Our Data: A Genealogy of the Informational Person

What is my book about?

We are now acutely aware, as if all of the sudden, that data matters enormously to how we live. How We Became Our Data excavates the early moments of our rapidly accelerating data-tracking technologies and their consequences on how we think of and express our selfhood today. The book explores the emergence of mass-scale record-keeping systems like birth certificates and social security numbers, as well as early data techniques for categorizing personality traits, measuring intelligence, and even the production of racializing data. This all culminates in the “informational person” and the “informational power” we are all now subject to.

Blending philosophy, history, political theory, and media theory, How We Became Our Data presents an illuminating perspective on how we have come to think of our personhood—and how we can resist its erosion.

Industry Unbound

By Ari Ezra Waldman,

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

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.  


Who am I?

I became interested in privacy in the mid-1990s. When I began my career as a law professor, I thought I might write one or two papers about privacy and then move on to other issues involving law and technology. But like Alice in Wonderland, I found an amazing world on the other side of the rabbit hole. I’ve written more than 10 books and 50 articles about privacy, and I have a list of topics and ideas that will keep me writing many more in the future. I recently wrote a children’s book about privacy called The Eyemonger, which is designed to spark a child’s thoughts and understanding about privacy.


I wrote...

Understanding Privacy

By Daniel J. Solove,

Book cover of Understanding Privacy

What is my book about?

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.

Liberty and Sexuality

By David J. Garrow,

Book cover of Liberty and Sexuality: The Right to Privacy and the Making of Roe V. Wade

In 1965, the Supreme Court ruled for the first time that the Constitution guaranteed a “right to privacy” as it struck down Connecticut’s longstanding ban on the sale and use of birth control. (Amazing trivia: the state legislator who drafted the state’s 1879 anti-contraceptive law was P.T. Barnum.) Garrow’s history recounts the decades-long efforts of Connecticut activists to challenge the restriction, and how lawyers shifted their choice of plaintiffs from doctors asserting the law interfered with their ability to provide medical advice to married women claiming a right to privacy within their marriages. In the years following Griswold v. Connecticut, the Supreme Court gradually expanded that novel privacy doctrine, extending it to the intimate decisions of unmarried people, and eventually to cover the right to an abortion with Roe v. Wade.

Who am I?

Sasha Issenberg has been a newspaper reporter, magazine writer, and editor, and teaches in the political science department at UCLA. He is the author of four books, on topics as varied as the global sushi business, medical tourism, and the science of political campaigns. The most recent tackles his most sweeping subject yet: the long and unlikely campaign to legalize same-sex marriage in the United States. One of his favorite discoveries in the decade he spent researching the book was that a movement that ended with a landmark Supreme Court decision had been catalyzed by a Honolulu activist’s public-relations stunt sprawling out of control twenty-five years earlier.


I wrote...

The Engagement: America's Quarter-Century Struggle Over Same-Sex Marriage

By Sasha Issenberg,

Book cover of The Engagement: America's Quarter-Century Struggle Over Same-Sex Marriage

What is my book about?

On June 26, 2015, the United States Supreme Court ruled that state bans on gay marriage were unconstitutional, making same-sex unions legal throughout the United States. But the road to victory was much longer than many know. The Engagement traces the emergence of same-sex marriage as a political issue to 1990 in Honolulu, where a petty power struggle for control of a Honolulu gay-pride planning committee inadvertently helped introduce it to the state’s courts, and religious conservatives elevated it to the national stage with the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996.

The Engagement follows the coast-to-coast conflict through courtrooms and war rooms, bedrooms, and boardrooms, to shed light on every aspect of a political and legal struggle that divided Americans like few other issues have. It adds up to a secret history of the modern culture wars that O: The Oprah Magazine called “Part Grisham-esque legal thriller, part Sorkin-esque political drama, and part Maddow-esque historical yarn.”

Privacy's Blueprint

By Woodrow Hartzog,

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

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. 


Who am I?

I became interested in privacy in the mid-1990s. When I began my career as a law professor, I thought I might write one or two papers about privacy and then move on to other issues involving law and technology. But like Alice in Wonderland, I found an amazing world on the other side of the rabbit hole. I’ve written more than 10 books and 50 articles about privacy, and I have a list of topics and ideas that will keep me writing many more in the future. I recently wrote a children’s book about privacy called The Eyemonger, which is designed to spark a child’s thoughts and understanding about privacy.


I wrote...

Understanding Privacy

By Daniel J. Solove,

Book cover of Understanding Privacy

What is my book about?

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.

The Art of Invisibility

By Kevin D. Mitnick,

Book cover of The Art of Invisibility: The World's Most Famous Hacker Teaches You How to Be Safe in the Age of Big Brother and Big Data

Kevin Mitnick is often called the “world’s most famous hacker,” and he spent years in prison for his crimes. However, he’s since reformed, and now advises individuals and corporations on how to protect their data. In this book, he talks about strategies that we can all use to better protect our data from exploitation by corporations and governments. Although it’s never possible to be truly “invisible” (despite the title of his book) he presents some great strategies to lower your risk profile.


Who am I?

I have been an information technology and cybersecurity professional for over two decades. I’ve learned over and over again that “people are the weakest link.” You can build the most secure system in the world, with stringent password requirements. But if the user writes their password down and leaves it where someone else can see it, system security is irrelevant! The easiest way to gain access to a system is via “social engineering” – to trick a human being into giving you the access you need, rather than trying to hack the system itself. The books on this list will help the reader lower their chances of being exploited like this.


I wrote...

10 Don'ts on Your Digital Devices: The Non-Techie's Survival Guide to Cyber Security and Privacy

By Eric J. Rzeszut, Daniel Bachrach,

Book cover of 10 Don'ts on Your Digital Devices: The Non-Techie's Survival Guide to Cyber Security and Privacy

What is my book about?

In nontechnical language and engaging style, 10 Don’ts on Your Digital Devices explains to non-techie users of PCs and handheld devices exactly what to do and what not to do to protect their digital data from security and privacy threats at home, at work, and on the road. These include chronic threats such as malware and phishing attacks and emerging threats that exploit cloudbased storage and mobile apps.

Through ten vignettes told in accessible language and illustrated with helpful screenshots, 10 Don’ts teaches non-technical readers ten key lessons for protecting your digital security and privacy with the same care you reflexively give to your physical security and privacy.

Bookshelves related to the right to privacy