PRIVACY + SECURITY BLOG

News, Developments, and Insights

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The Nothing-to-Hide Argument – My Essay’s 10th Anniversary

Privacy Surveillance Nothing to Hide Argument

In response to government surveillance or massive data gathering, many people say that there’s nothing to worry about.  “I’ve got nothing to hide,” they declare.  “The only people who should worry are those who are doing something immoral or illegal.”

Nothing to Hide - SoloveThe nothing-to-hide argument is ubiquitous.  This is why I wrote an essay about it 10 years ago called “I’ve Got Nothing to Hide,” and Other Misunderstandings of Privacy, 44 San Diego Law Review 745 (2007).  It was a short law review piece, one that I thought would be read by only a few people.  But to my surprise, this essay really resonated with many people, and it received an unusually high number of downloads for a law review essay.  I later expanded the ideas in the essay into a book: Nothing to Hide: The False Tradeoff Between Privacy and Security  (Yale University Press 2011).

This year is the 10th anniversary of the piece.  A lot has happened between then and now.  Not too long before I wrote my essay, there were revelations of illegal NSA surveillance.  A significant percentage of the public supported the NSA surveillance, and the nothing-to-hide argument was trotted out again and again.  This was the climate in which I wrote the essay.

Later on, in 2013, Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA was engaging in extensive surveillance far beyond its legal authority.  Snowden declared: “Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.”  This time, there was a significantly large percentage of the public that didn’t side with the NSA but instead demanded scrutiny and accountability.

Nevertheless, the nothing-to-hide argument is far from vanquished.  There will always be a need for citizens to demand accountability and oversight of government surveillance, or else we will gradually slide into a more dystopian world.

Here are a few short excerpts from my nothing-to-hide essay:

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New Edition of Privacy Law Fundamentals

Privacy Law Fundamentals

I’m pleased to announce that a new 4th edition of my short guide, PRIVACY LAW FUNDAMENTALS  (IAPP 2017)  (co-authored with Professor Paul Schwartz) is now out in print. This edition incorporates extensive developments in privacy law and includes an introductory chapter summarizing key new laws, cases and enforcement actions.

Privacy Law Fundamentals is designed with an accessible, portable format to deliver vital information in a concise (318 pages) and digestible manner. It includes key provisions of privacy statutes; leading cases; tables summarizing the statutes (private rights of action, preemption, liquidated damages, etc.); summaries of key state privacy laws; and an overview of FTC, FCC, and HHS enforcement actions.

“This is the essential primer for all privacy practitioners.” — David A. Hoffman, Intel Corp.

“In our fast-paced practice, there’s nothing better than a compact and accessible work that is curated by two of the great thinkers of the field.  It is a gem.” — Kurt Wimmer, Covington & Burling LLP

“Two giants of privacy scholarship succeed in distilling their legal expertise into an essential guide for a broad range of the privacy community.” — Jules Polonetsky, Future of Privacy Forum

“This book is my go-to reference for when I need quick, accurate information on privacy laws across sectors and jurisdictions.” — Nuala O’Connor, Center for Democracy and Technology

You can get a copy at IAPP’s bookstore or at Amazon.  For general information about this book as well as all my textbooks and useful resources, visit our Information Privacy Law textbook website.

The full table of contents is below:

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A Brief History of Information Privacy Law

I recently updated my book chapter, A Brief History of Information Privacy Lawwhich appears in the new edition of PLI’s Proskauer on Privacy.

This book chapter, originally written in 2006 and updated in 2016, provides a brief history of information privacy law, with a primary focus on United States privacy law. It discusses the development of the common law torts, Fourth Amendment law, the constitutional right to information privacy, numerous federal statutes pertaining to privacy, electronic surveillance laws, and more. It explores how the law has emerged and evolved in response to new technologies that have increased the collection, dissemination, and use of personal information.

The chapter can be downloaded for free here.

Here is the table of contents:

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The Digital Person: Technology and Privacy in the Information Age

 

Digital Person: Technology and Privacy in the Information Age

 

I am now offering the full text of my book The Digital Person:  Technology and Privacy in the Information Age (NYU Press 2004) online for FREE download.

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The 5 Things Every Privacy Lawyer Needs to Know about the FTC: An Interview with Chris Hoofnagle

Privacy and Security Training

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has become the leading federal agency to regulate privacy and data security. The scope of its power is vast – it covers the majority of commercial activity – and it has been enforcing these issues for decades. An FTC civil investigative demand (CID) will send shivers down the spine of even the largest of companies, as the FTC requires a 20-year period of assessments to settle the score.Continue Reading