The recent revelations about the scope of the Obama administration’s secret surveillance programs have at least one silver lining: provoking a national debate about the right to privacy and prompting people to learn more about its ethical, legal and practical dimensions. Readers approaching this fascinating subject for the first time might want to begin with the best article on privacy ever written: Samuel Warren and Louis Brandeis’s “The Right to Privacy,” first published in the Harvard Law Review in 1890 and available online. After that warm-up, here are some of my favorite privacy books.
PRIVACY AND FREEDOM by Alan F. Westin (1967). The best book on privacy written in the late 20th century. Westin identifies four states of privacy: solitude, intimacy, reserve and anonymity. In addition to inspiring many of the privacy reforms of the 1970s and 1980s — such as those championed by the Church Commission and enacted in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act — Westin’s book was the central inspiration for my two books about privacy (obviously personal favorites as well!): “The Unwanted Gaze: The Destruction of Privacy in America” (2000) and “The Naked Crowd: Reclaiming Security and Freedom in an Anxious Age” (2004).