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89 Geo. L.J. 2087 (2000-2001)
Three Concepts of Privacy

handle is hein.journals/glj89 and id is 2109 raw text is: Three Concepts of Privacy

ROBERT C. POST*
Privacy is a value so complex, so entangled in competing and contradictory
dimensions, so engorged with various and distinct meanings, that I sometimes
despair whether it can be usefully addressed at all. Jeffrey Rosen's courage in
eloquently addressing the subject with the sweep and vigor evident in The
Unwanted Gaze is entirely admirable.' He has composed a rich and useful book,
filled with perceptive observations and nuggets of sound advice. But as to
capturing the core concept of privacy itself, I find myself cautious and reserved.
In this brief Review Essay, I shall isolate and review three different and in
some respects incompatible concepts of privacy that are each mentioned in the
Prologue to The Unwanted Gaze. The first connects privacy to the creation of
knowledge; the second connects privacy to dignity; and the third connects
privacy to freedom. I shall argue that the first concept should not be understood
as a question of privacy; that the second is a helpful way of apprehending
privacy, but that it should focus our attention primarily upon forms of social
structure; and that the third is best conceived as an argument for liberal
limitations on government regulation.
Rosen introduces the first sense of privacy early in the Prologue when he
seeks to explain the sense of violation'2 that Monica Lewinsky undoubtedly
experienced when her consensual sexual activities'3 were forcibly made pub-
lic. Rosen argues that a central value of privacy is to protect persons from
being misdefined and judged out of context in a world of short attention spans, a
world in which information can easily be confused with knowledge.,4 Rosen
argues that Lewinsky, like any normal person, would feel violated if she were
misjudged on the basis of [her] most embarrassing, and therefore most memo-
rable, tastes and preferences.5 Rosen continues:
Monica Lewinsky didn't mind that her friends knew she had given the
President a copy of Nicholson Baker's Vox, because her friends knew that she
was much more than the type of person who would read a book about phone
sex. But when our reading habits or private e-mails are exposed to strangers,
we may be reduced, in the public eye, to nothing more than the most salacious
book we once read or the most vulgar joke we once told.6
* Alexander F. and May T. Morrison Professor of Law, School of Law, University of California,
Berkeley (Boalt Hall).
1. JEFFREY ROSEN, THE UNWANTED GAZE: TE DESTRUCTION OF PRIVACY IN AMERICA (2000).
2. Id. at 8.
3. Id. at 4.
4. Id. at 8.
5. Id. at 9.
6. Id.

2087

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