News, Developments, and Insights

high-tech technology background with eyes on computer display

Hartzog Privacy Essay

Professor Woodrow Hartzog (Northeastern Law) has written a great essay focusing on my work. The piece is

What is Privacy? That’s the Wrong Question
88 U. Chicago L. Rev. 1677 (2021)

From the abstract:

Privacy has never had a precise meaning. But in the early 1900s, the concept took on new life as a term of art in legal frameworks. The result has been a bit of a mess, as no singular definition has been adequate for all purposes. Daniel Solove, perhaps the most influential privacy scholar of our day, wrote at the turn of the millennium that privacy was “a concept in disarray.”

In this short essay reflecting upon Solove’s impact on the modern study of information privacy, I argue that the chaos and futility of competing conceptualizations of privacy is why Solove’s research on privacy has been so important. Solove has reshaped the entire narrative around privacy by suggesting that we stop obsessing over what privacy is and start asking what privacy is for. His contributions have profoundly influenced the privacy debate by dispelling the notion that privacy is only important to people with “something to hide.” He cast doubt upon people’s ability to engage in “privacy self-management.” He introduced new narratives for industry’s data processing efforts that are closer to a Kafkaesque byzantine bureaucratic nightmare than Orwellian dystopian surveillance. He helped usher in the algorithmic turn in privacy scholarship and enriched our understanding of the full spectrum of privacy harms. Perhaps most importantly, Solove’s work provides a structure that frees scholars and lawmakers of the burden of finding one, singular notion of privacy to rule them all.

Privacy is still a concept in disarray. But that’s okay. There is now too much data that is collected by too many different entities and used in too many different ways for any singular definition of privacy to be legally useful anyway. Daniel Solove’s work on understanding privacy has imposed order upon chaos, shifting our focus away from questions about what privacy is and toward the different problems we want our privacy rules to address and the specific values we want them to serve.

The essay was written as part of a symposium about highly-cited scholars based upon Fred Shapiro’s article, The Most-Cited Legal Scholars Revisited. I am grateful to have made the list of the most-cited younger scholars:

Most-Cited Younger Scholars 2021 - Chicago L Rev Symposium

* * * *

This post was authored by Professor Daniel J. Solove, who through TeachPrivacy develops computer-based privacy and data security training. He also posts at his blog at LinkedIn, which has more than 1 million followers.

Professor Solove is the organizer, along with Paul Schwartz, of the Privacy + Security Forum an annual event designed for seasoned professionals. 

NEWSLETTER: Subscribe to Professor Solove’s free newsletter
TWITTER: Follow Professor Solove on Twitter.

Prof. Solove’s Privacy Training: 150+ Courses

Privacy Awareness Training 03

Prof. Solove’s Privacy Law Whiteboard Library

Whiteboard Library - by Daniel Solove - TeachPrivacy Training 04