Privacy and the Limits of History

8 Pages Posted: 29 Apr 2009 Last revised: 4 Aug 2011

Neil M. Richards

Washington University in St. Louis - School of Law; Yale Information Society Project; Stanford Center for Internet and Society

Date Written: August 3, 2011

Abstract

A short review essay of Lawrence Friedman's "Guarding Life's Dark Secrets: Legal and Social Controls over Reputation, Propriety, and Privacy" (Stanford Press 2007). The essay argues that Friedman tells a nuanced and compelling story of the rise and fall of the "Victorian Compromise," a series of interlocking legal doctrines protecting the reputations of elites around the turn of the twentieth century. "Dark Secrets" undeniably advances our understanding of both the genesis of privacy law and the relationships between law and culture in the Gilded Age. As a work of legal history, it is an instant classic - a must-read for anyone interested in privacy law. But although Dark Secrets is first-rate legal history, it is less successful in its latter chapters when Friedman shifts his focus from the past to the present. The limits of Friedman's social criticism raise important questions about the ability of history alone to provide answers to social problems in our modern, networked information society.

Suggested Citation

Richards, Neil M., Privacy and the Limits of History (August 3, 2011). Yale Journal of Law and the Humanities, Vol. 21, No. 1, 2009; Washington U. School of Law Working Paper No. 09-06-05. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1396888

Neil M. Richards (Contact Author)

Washington University in St. Louis - School of Law ( email )

Campus Box 1120
St. Louis, MO 63130
United States

Yale Information Society Project ( email )

New Haven, CT 06520
United States

Stanford Center for Internet and Society ( email )

559 Nathan Abbott Way
Stanford, CA 94305-8610
United States

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