Pub. Date:
New York University Press
The Digital Person: Technology and Privacy in the Information Age

The Digital Person: Technology and Privacy in the Information Age

by Daniel J Solove
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Seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day, electronic databases are compiling information about you. As you surf the Internet, an unprecedented amount of your personal information is being recorded and preserved forever in the digital minds of computers. For each individual, these databases create a profile of activities, interests, and preferences used to investigate backgrounds, check credit, market products, and make a wide variety of decisions affecting our lives. The creation and use of these databases—which Daniel J. Solove calls “digital dossiers”—has thus far gone largely unchecked.  In this startling account of new technologies for gathering and using personal data, Solove explains why digital dossiers pose a grave threat to our privacy.

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. 

THE DIGITAL PERSON not only explores these problems, but 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 what privacy is, one that is appropriate for the new challenges of the Information Age. 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.

Daniel J. Solove is associate professor of law at the George Washington University Law School.  He is the author (with Marc Rotenberg) of INFORMATION PRIVACY LAW. 

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780814740378
Publisher: New York University Press
Publication date: 09/01/2006
Series: Ex Machina: Law, Technology, and Society Series
Pages: 283
Sales rank: 764,958
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.67(d)

About the Author

Daniel J. Solove is Associate Professor of Law at the George Washington University Law School. He is the co-author of Information Privacy Law.

Table of Contents

The Problems of Digital Dossiers2
Traditional Conceptions of Privacy7
Rethinking Privacy8
A Road Map for This Book9
iComputer databases
2The Rise of the Digital Dossier13
A History of Public-Sector Databases13
A History of Private-Sector Databases16
Cyberspace and Personal Information22
3Kafka and Orwell: Reconceptualizing Information Privacy27
The Importance of Metaphor27
George Orwell's Big Brother29
Franz Kafka's Trial36
Beyond the Secrecy Paradigm42
The Aggregation Effect44
Forms of Dehumanization: Databases and the Kafka Metaphor47
4The Problems of Information Privacy Law56
The Privacy Torts57
Constitutional Law62
Statutory Law67
The FTC and Unfair and Deceptive Practices72
A World of Radical Transparency: Freedom of Information Law73
The Law of Information Privacy and Its Shortcomings74
5The Limits of Market-Based Solutions76
Market-Based Solutions76
Misgivings of the Market81
The Value of Personal Information87
Too Much Paternalism?90
6Architecture and the Protection of Privacy93
Two Models for the Protection of Privacy93
Toward an Architecture for Privacy and the Private Sector101
Reconceptualizing Identity Theft109
Forging a New Architecture119
iiPublic records
7The Problem of Public Records127
Records from Birth to Death127
The Impact of Technology131
The Regulation of Public Records132
8Access and Aggregation: Rethinking Privacy and Transparency140
The Tension between Transparency and Privacy140
Conceptualizing Privacy and Public Records143
Transparency and Privacy: Reconciling the Tension150
Public Records and the First Amendment155
iiiGovernment access
9Government Information Gathering165
Third Party Records and the Government165
Government-Private-Sector Information Flows168
The Orwellian Dangers175
The Kafkaesque Dangers177
Protecting Privacy with Architecture186
10The Fourth Amendment, Records, and Privacy188
The Architecture of the Fourth Amendment188
The Shifting Paradigms of Fourth Amendment Privacy195
The New Olmstead200
The Emerging Statutory Regime and Its Limits202
11Reconstructing the Architecture210
Scope: System of Records211
Structure: Mechanisms of Oversight217
Regulating Post-Collection Use of Data221
Developing an Architecture222
About the Author283

What People are Saying About This

Paul Schwartz

A must-read. The Digital Person is a far-reaching examination of how 'digital dossiers' are shaping our lives. Solove has persuasively reconceptualized privacy for the digital age.
Professor of Law, Brooklyn Law School

Jeffrey Rosen

Daniel Solove is one of the most energetic and creative scholars writing about privacy today. The Digital Person is an important contribution to the privacy debate, and Solove's discussion of the harms of what he calls 'digital dossiers' is invaluable.
author of The Unwanted Gaze and The Naked Crowd

Pamela Samuelson

Solove's book is the best exposition thus far about the threat that computer databases containing personal data about millions of Americans poses for information privacy. Solove documents not only how ongoing advances in information technology is increasing this threat significantly, but also how governmental uses of private sector databases and private sector uses of governmental databases are further eroding the privacy-by-obscurity protection of yesteryear. Most importantly, Solove offers a conception of privacy that, if adopted, provides guidance about policies that would preserve information privacy as a social value.
Chancellor's Professor of Law and Information Management at the University of California, Berkeley

From the Publisher

“This comprehensive analysis of privacy in the information age challenges traditional assumptions that breeches of privacy through the development of electronic dossiers involve the invasion of one's private space.”


“Solove ultimately is no ‘chicken little’ but an idealist of the best sort, concluding a positive role for law in the problem of privacy. Whether the world will leave Orwell and Kafka behind and evolve into Solove remains to be seen, but herein is offered a plan to achieve that objective.”
-Journal of Information Ethics


The Digital Person challenges the existing ways in which law and legal theory approach the social, political, and legal implications of the collection and use of personal information in computer databases. Solove’s book is ambitious, and represents the most important publication in the field of information privacy law for some years.”
-Georgetown Law Journal


“Anyone concerned with preserving privacy against technology's growing intrusiveness will find this book enlightening.”
-Publishers Weekly


“Solove . . . truly understands the intersection of law and technology. This book is a fascinating journey into the almost surreal ways personal information is hoarded, used, and abused in the digital age.”
-The Wall Street Journal

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