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The Digital Person: Technology And Privacy In The Information Age First Edition Edition

15 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0814798461
ISBN-10: 0814798462
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

When one surveys the myriad ways that personal information can be snatched from individuals through electronic means, it’s easy to feel gloomy about the prospects for privacy in the Information Age—which is why this book is so refreshing. Although it sometimes reads like a legal brief—author Solove (Information Privacy Law) is an associate law professor at George Washington University Law School—it offers insights into the current state of privacy in America and some intriguing prescriptions for altering that state of affairs. Contrary to popular notions that "Big Brother" is destroying privacy, Solove argues that the withering of privacy can, in large measure, be attributed to indifference. "The privacy problem created by the use of databases stems from an often careless and unconcerned bureaucratic process," he writes, "one that has little judgment or accountability.... We are not just heading toward a world of Big Brother, but to a world that is beginning to resemble Kafka’s vision in The Trial." Solove contends that existing methods for protecting privacy fail to fulfill their purpose because they depend on individuals remedying situations that they don’t even know exist. Solove’s call for systematic change is compelling, as are his ideas for revamping society’s information-gathering architecture. "Changing our relationships with bureaucracies can’t be achieved through isolated lawsuits," he argues. "We need a regulatory system, akin to the ones we have in place regulating our food, environment, and financial institutions." Anyone concerned with preserving privacy against technology’s growing intrusiveness will find this book enlightening.
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“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

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

“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

“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.”

“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 and The Naked Crowd

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Product Details

  • Series: Ex Machina: Law, Technology, and Society
  • Hardcover: 283 pages
  • Publisher: NYU Press; First Edition edition (October 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0814798462
  • ISBN-13: 978-0814798461
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #815,830 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Daniel J. Solove is the John Marshall Harlan Research Professor of Law at the George Washington University Law School and an internationally-known expert in privacy law. He is the founder of TeachPrivacy,, a company that provides privacy and data security training.

To find out more about his work and to download many of his writings, go to

Solove is the author of 10 books, including the leading textbook on information privacy law. He has published with Harvard University Press and Yale University Press, among others, and his books have been translated into many languages. Solove has published more than 50 articles and essays, which have appeared in leading law reviews such as the Harvard Law Review, Yale Law Journal, Stanford Law Review, Columbia Law Review, California Law Review, Michigan Law Review, NYU Law Review, University of Pennsylvania Law Review, and Duke Law Journal.

Professor Solove is co-reporter on the American Law Institute Restatement of Information Privacy Principles. He has testified before Congress and has been interviewed and featured in several hundred media broadcasts and articles, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, USA Today, Associated Press, Time, Newsweek, ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, and NPR. His work has been cited by many courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court.

A graduate of Yale Law School, he clerked for Judge Stanley Sporkin, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and Judge Pamela Ann Rymer, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.

Professor Solove teaches information privacy law, criminal procedure, criminal law, and law and literature.

He is a LinkedIn "Influencer" and blogs at His blog has more than 900,000 followers.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Byrne on September 12, 2005
Format: Hardcover
How many times have we heard the expression that "you are what you eat"? But what if that were extended to what you drive, what you read, where you work, what you spend, and much more. What if this information was being gathered by unknown people for uncertain purposes in digital format, would this "digital dossier", which might be used to make decisions about you, be accurate? Well they do exist and are assembled and used by people and groups that you may not even know about, even though the use may have a direct impact on your life.

So you might then ask if existing legal frameworks provide any protection or recourse to keep a handle on the information? In The Digital Person: Technology and Privacy in the Information Age (2004, New York University Press, 282 Pages, ISBN 0814798462), George Washington University Law Professor and privacy law expert Daniel J. Solove weaves history, legal precedents, changes in society/technology, and discussions of practical business/marketing into a narrative that is not only easy to read and understand, but one that must be read by anybody who wants to discuss and understand privacy in a meaningful way.

Solove, who also co-authored Information Privacy Law in 2003, starts out by laying the groundwork for the privacy discussion. He outlines how information databases came to be and how they have evolved. He then provides the basis for the metaphor he wants to present, showing that it is not the Orwellian world of 1984 we need to fear, but the world imagined by Kafka in The Trial that should be of concern to individuals. Having never read The Trial, I found this discussion to be fascinating and in some ways changed some of my thoughts on the issue, while reenforcing others.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Susan Soltis on November 14, 2004
Format: Hardcover
At long last . . . a book about privacy that doesn't just whine about how privacy is "dead"! Solove offers real solutions to real problems. The book is both frightening and optimistic. Solove talks about the efforts underway by big corporations and big government to collect our data and how its use is harming people. These developments are astonishing, and the book describes them in a way that opens your eyes to the big picture of what is going on. His discussion of why we should protect privacy is the best argument I've yet heard. Solove doesn't dumb down his discussion like many other books do. Nor does he throw his hands up in the air and say that our privacy is all gone. Solove is very specific about the changes he proposes in the law. I appreciated the fact that Solove offers real solutions. This is a deeper book than most books on privacy. If you want to learn why privacy should be protected and how, you should definitely read this remarkable book.

Sue Soltis

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Poliakon on September 11, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is the third book in my latest readings on post-9/11 citizen privacy and personal security issues. O'Harrow's "No Place To Hide" and Rosen's "The Naked Crowd" preceded this one. All have been informative, but this book by Daniel Solove is the crème de la crème. It is five stars with a bullet.

It is scholarly in content without being esoteric as it wrestles with privacy law and privacy reconceptualization issues. Solove is a rare lawyer with the organized mind of an engineer, a "law engineer." He delineates the emerging problems attendant to digital dossiers while concisely laying out and discussing the pertinent law, privacy issues and conceptual models of privacy protection. He is able to deftly juggle Kafka, Huxley and Orwell's "privacy & surveillance" writings while seamlessly marrying them and the other digital privacy elements to privacy law history running from Warren and Brandeis' "The Right To Privacy," through the Privacy Act of 1974 up to COPPA.

Like many of us "digital persons" pursuing life, liberty and happiness out in the U.S. hinterlands, Solove recognizes "the government's increasing access to our digital dossiers is one of the most significant threats to privacy of our times...". He wisely understands that the "law crafting" solution must be an adaptively dynamic one and proposes an architectural solution that is process oriented.

This book makes it clear that SOLOVE KNOWZ PRIVACY LAW!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on March 13, 2005
Format: Hardcover
There are quite a few current books on privacy (eg: Database Nation, Soft Cage, Unwanted Gaze, No Place to Hide, War on Our Freedoms, The Right to Privacy, and others). Having read these and a few others, I believe this is the best.

This book distinguishes itself by its balanced, mature perspective. It provides all the requisite background on both governmental and business actions that have destroyed privacy. It outlines and summarizes privacy law in a non-technical but pertinent manner. Where this book pulls ahead of others is in its recognition that what "privacy" is about is the balance of power in society between individuals on one hand, and large institutions such as government and business on the other. Solove recommends a number of realistic, do-able solutions founded in a basic philosophy of law.

I wish there were some evidence (any evidence!) that Solove's ideas were influencing our society's direction in this area, but I see none. Nevertheless, Solove has taken the important first step of analyzing the problem and offering a well-reasoned solution.
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