The Digital Person

Technology and Privacy in the Information Age

Daniel J. Solove
(NYU Press 2004)

A pathbreaking account of the threat to privacy in today’s digitized world.

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. 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. In THE DIGITAL PERSON, Solove engages in a fascinating discussion of timely privacy issues such as spyware, web bugs, data mining, the USA-Patriot Act, and airline passenger profiling.

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.

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Praise For The Book

“Solove is a law professor, and one of the few that 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.”

— Bruce Schneier, The Wall Street Journal

Read Schneier’s review in his journal Crypto-Gram

“[T]his book is so refreshing . . . it offers insights into the current state of privacy in America and some intriguing prescriptions for altering that state of affairs. . . . Anyone concerned with preserving privacy against technology’s growing intrusiveness will find this book enlightening.”

Publisher’s Weekly

“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 offers a conception of privacy that, if adopted, provides guidance about policies that would preserve information privacy as a social value.”

— Pamela Samuelson, Chancellor’s Professor of Law and Information Management at U.C. Berkeley

“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”

— Jeffrey Rosen, author of The Unwanted Gaze

“A far-reaching examination of how digital dossiers are shaping our lives. Daniel Solove has persuasively reconceptualized privacy for the digital age. A must-read.”

— Paul Schwartz, Professor of Law, Brooklyn Law School

“A compelling new book [that] explores how the current legal framework for protecting privacy is inadequate in light of the growing pervasiveness and power of electronic dossiers.”

— Privacy Times, reviewed by Evan Hendricks

“Solove offers a book that is both comprehensive and easy to understand, discussing the changes that technology has brought to our concept of privacy. . . . [T]his book is an excellent starting point for much needed discussion.”

— Tom O’Connor, Law & Technology Product News

“[T]he breadth of databases that [Solove] describes – and their ability to slice and dice the population into tiny subsets – is astonishing.”

— Seth Stern, The Christian Science Monitor

“The Digital Person is an excellent summary of the current law of privacy and the problems thereof. . . . [I]f you want to find out what a mess the law of privacy is, how it got that way, and whether there is hope for the future, then read this book.”

— James Johnston, The Legal Times

“This is not only a book you should read, but you should make sure your friends read it.”

— Robert Bruen, IEEE Cipher News

“[Solove] includes a nearly encyclopedic analysis of the current state of privacy law relating to ‘digital dossiers’ . . . [and does his] topics justice when warning of police perusal of databases, the perils that secret ‘Do Not Fly’ lists can hold for innocent travelers with unlucky names, and the shadowy surveillance-industrial complex.”

— Declan McCullagh, CNET News

“In each major section, there is a wealth of both historical and contemporary information on the information revolution and the relevant law, mined from a wide variety of sources, ranging from other law professors to historians, sociologists, and an occasional political scientist. Solove’s prose is exceptionally concise and provides a highly readable and accessible primer on the topics covered.”

— Professor Philip Dynia, Law and Politics Book Review

“Solove evaluates the shortcomings of current approaches to privacy as well as some useful and controversial ideas for striking a new balance. Anyone who deals with privacy matters will find a lot to consider.”

— Robert Gellman,

“[Solove’s] writing flows from sentence to sentence and from chapter to chapter, making his thesis and the steps to his argument clear to the reader . . . . The Digital Person is a provocative read.”

— Lori Powers, Journal of High Technology Law

“[An] interesting and comprehensive book [that] describes the legal and social implications of privacy in the US.”

— W.E. Mihalo, Computing Reviews

“This comprehensive analysis of privacy in the information age challenges traditional assumptions. . . . Through the use of literary analogies and explicit examples, the book reveals how current laws and constitutional interpretations have failed to catch up with emerging problems and how traditional remedies are not up the the challenge. . . . Recommended.”

— Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries

“From government tapping to business purposes, chapters describe the nature of the data, its sources, and how it’s used in profiling attempts.”

Midwest Book Reviews

“There is no better survey of the privacy landscape than Daniel Solove’s The Digital Person.”

— Jim Harper, Cato Journal