Reviewing the Future of Reputation

Daniel Solove called on bloggers with an interest in privacy to drop him a note, and he would send a copy of his latest book for review.  The only condition was that you posted a review.  So here is mine.

Solove is on a mission to get people thinking about privacy who haven’t really thought about it before. Anyone who has a Facebook profile, a blog, or who posts photos online, or has friends and family who do, ought to read it. As a very successful  blogger himself, he brings a practical perspective to the topic of gossip, ‘rumor’ and privacy on the Internet.

It would be a good book for parents to read, as it would able them to understand the mySpace etc dangers and benefits better. It is accessible enough that a teenager could learn from it, without being bored by a lot of legal rhetoric.  Solove writes well, with a deft touch.  It isn’t a dense academic book, although Solove is a highly respected privacy academic. Legal types may wish for more depth, but if so, then head over and read this.

The book works because it uses lots of anecdotes to explain complex issues, simply.  It covers the awkward and subtle tensions between privacy and the first amendment-freedom of speech brilliantly. It also provides an excellent quick tour through US privacy law history. (curious though that I didn’t see  Roe v Wade  mentioned)

Most of my own research into privacy has been about government and big business.  Solove makes the powerful point that there is a significant threat from your friends, lovers and colleagues too.

He effectively challenges the binary private-public divide, arguing coherently we need to understand shades of confidentially and exposure, and uses the burning man event, Washingtonienne, Article III, and other incidents to illustrate this. He eloquently explains the paradox  that we need greater privacy and recourse against unwanted exposure if freedom of speech is to thrive.  The dangers of vigilantism and shaming are given close attention.

He briefly touches on the power of technology to aid privacy protection, but he could have explored this in more depth.  He did call on social networking tools to offer stronger privacy default. This is good advice. I would have liked more on the copyright analogy.

My only significant  gripe was that the book is very US and tort centric. It made passing mention of UK tort, but it made no mention of European Data Protection Law, nor of the right to privacy in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or other significant legal instruments.

He is more positive than I am about the future of privacy. 

In short, buy it.

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