The Digital Person: Technology and Privacy in the Information Age
Daniel J. Solove, The Digital Person: Technology and Privacy in the Information Age, NYU Press (2004)
296 Pages Posted: 17 Jan 2017 Last revised: 24 Feb 2017
Date Written: October 1, 2004
This is the complete text of Daniel J. Solove's book, THE DIGITAL PERSON: TECHNOLOGY AND PRIVACY IN THE INFORMATION AGE (Full Text) (NYU Press 2004) explores the social, political, and legal implications of the collection and use of personal information in computer databases. In the Information Age, our lives are documented in digital dossiers maintained by hundreds (perhaps thousands) of businesses and government agencies. These dossiers are composed of bits of our personal information, which when assembled together begin to paint a portrait of our personalities. The dossiers are increasingly used to make decisions about our lives - whether we get a loan, a mortgage, a license, or a job; whether we are investigated or arrested; and whether we are permitted to fly on an airplane.
Digital dossiers impact many aspects of our lives. For example, they increase our vulnerability to identity theft, a serious crime that has been escalating at an alarming rate. Moreover, since September 11th, the government has been tapping into vast stores of information collected by businesses and using it to profile people for criminal or terrorist activity.
Do these developments pose a problem? Is it possible to protect privacy in a society where information flows so freely and proliferates so rapidly? THE DIGITAL PERSON seeks to answer these questions. This book explores the problem from all angles - how businesses gather personal information in massive databases; how the government increasingly provides this data to businesses through public records; and how the government is gathering personal data from businesses for its own uses.
THE DIGITAL PERSON not only explores these problems, but also provides a compelling account of how we can respond to them. Using a wide variety of sources, including history, philosophy, and literature, Solove sets forth a new understanding of privacy, one that is appropriate for the new challenges of the Information Age. He argues that although the use of digital dossiers can create Orwellian harms of surveillance, they often create a different kind of problem best captured by Franz Kafka’s The Trial — a sense of helplessness, vulnerability, and frustration when entities use vast dossiers of data but refuse to provide people with sufficient knowledge and participation in the use of the data. Solove recommends how the law can be reformed to simultaneously protect our privacy and allow us to enjoy the benefits of our increasingly digital world.
Keywords: privacy, information, digital, Fourth Amendment, databases, data mining, Orwell, Kafka
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