Privacy-Privacy Tradeoffs

27 Pages Posted: 30 Jun 2015 Last revised: 31 Mar 2016

See all articles by David Pozen

David Pozen

Columbia University - Law School

Date Written: 2016


Legal and policy debates about privacy revolve around conflicts between privacy and other goods. But privacy also conflicts with itself. Whenever securing privacy on one margin compromises privacy on another margin, a "privacy-privacy tradeoff" arises.

This Essay introduces the phenomenon of privacy-privacy tradeoffs, with particular attention to their role in National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance. After explaining why these tradeoffs are pervasive in modern society and developing a typology, the Essay shows that many of the arguments made by the NSA's defenders appeal not only to a national security need but also to a privacy-privacy tradeoff. An appreciation of these tradeoffs, the Essay contends, illuminates the structure and the stakes of debates over surveillance law specifically and privacy policy generally.

Keywords: Privacy theory, civil liberties, information law, risk analysis, risk management, surveillance, intelligence, cybersecurity, technology, Big Data, institutional design, executive branch, NSA, Section 215, USA Freedom Act, metadata, Snowden, Solove

Suggested Citation

Pozen, David E., Privacy-Privacy Tradeoffs (2016). University of Chicago Law Review, Vol. 83, pp. 221-247, 2016, Available at SSRN:

David E. Pozen (Contact Author)

Columbia University - Law School ( email )

435 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10025
United States


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