First-Class Objects

15 Pages Posted: 23 Jun 2011

Date Written: June 20, 2011


What is the difference between "James Grimmelmann" and "@grimmelm" and why should we care? Some computer systems, like Facebook and credit reporting agencies, are inherently "about" people. Others are not. This essay argues that the key technical difference is whether they use unique identifiers to refer to people in their databases. From this single distinction, a host of social and humanistic consequences follow. The essay taxonomizes them and teases out some of their implications for privacy law.

Keywords: privacy, unique identifiers

JEL Classification: K00

Suggested Citation

Grimmelmann, James, First-Class Objects (June 20, 2011). Journal of Telecommunications and High Technology Law, Vol. 9, p. 421, 2011, NYLS Legal Studies Research Paper No. 11/12 #25, Available at SSRN:

James Grimmelmann (Contact Author)

Cornell Law School ( email )

Myron Taylor Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901
United States

Cornell Tech ( email )

111 8th Avenue #302
New York, NY 10011
United States

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