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Visionary Pragmatism and the Value of Privacy in the Twenty-First Century

22 Pages Posted: 5 Jan 2010 Last revised: 19 Jun 2010

Danielle Keats Citron

University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law; Yale University - Yale Information Society Project; Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society

Leslie Meltzer Henry

University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law; Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics

Date Written: 2010

Abstract

Despite extensive scholarly, legislative, and judicial attention to privacy, our understanding of privacy and the interests it protects remains inadequate. At the crux of this problem is privacy’s protean nature: it means “so many different things to so many different people” that attempts to articulate just what it is, or why it is important, generally have failed or become unwieldy. As a result, important privacy problems remain unaddressed, often to society’s detriment.

In his newest book, Understanding Privacy, Daniel J. Solove aims to reverse this state of affairs with a pluralistic conception of privacy that recognizes the societal value of privacy protections. His pragmatic approach, which includes a taxonomy of privacy problems, succeeds because it is as dynamic as it is functional. It is poised to respond to existing privacy issues, yet nimble enough to tackle emerging problems.

Without further guidance to policymakers about how to apply his framework, however, Solove’s proposal is susceptible to precisely the kind of non-pragmatic decision-making he eschews. It offers no safeguards, for example, to prevent decision makers from rendering judgments based on their overarching philosophies, preferences, or emotions, and it provides little advice to policymakers weighing competing privacy risks. In these respects, Solove’s approach would benefit from a more transparent decision-making process as well as rules of thumb intended to guide policymakers through some of privacy’s more complicated terrain. Solove provides an excellent aerial map of privacy, but to fulfill pragmatism’s promise, he needs to get closer to the ground.

Keywords: information privacy, cyberspace law

Suggested Citation

Citron, Danielle Keats and Henry, Leslie Meltzer, Visionary Pragmatism and the Value of Privacy in the Twenty-First Century (2010). Michigan Law Review, Vol. 108, p. 1170, 2010; U of Maryland Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2010-2. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1531270

Danielle Citron (Contact Author)

University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law ( email )

500 West Baltimore Street
Baltimore, MD 21201-1786
United States

Yale University - Yale Information Society Project

127 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06511
United States

Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society

Palo Alto, CA
United States

Leslie Henry

University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law ( email )

500 West Baltimore Street
Baltimore, MD 21201-1786
United States
410-706-4480 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.umaryland.edu/faculty/profiles/faculty.html?facultynum=616

Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics ( email )

United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.bioethicsinstitute.org/people/leslie-meltzer-henry

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