As readers of the InsidePrivacy blog know, we often save some fun reading on privacy issues for the weekend, given the crush of business during the week. Sure, you’re reading the FTC’s just‑released Internet of Things report (and hopefully Shel’s helpful analysis of it), but a little broader reading might be just right for our (somewhat) snowy weekend.
At the top of my list for this weekend is Neil Richards’ new book, Intellectual Privacy: Rethinking Civil Liberties in the Digital Age. This book follows up on Neil’s great law review article of the same name, but develops and updates the arguments, examples and use cases. The subject of the work is the conflict between privacy and free expression, one of the most important issues in our area of law and policy. Topics such as the “right to be forgotten” place this issue squarely into today’s headlines. Neil suggests that free speech should win out in the event of a true conflict between the two values, but concludes that true conflicts are exceedingly rare. It is more likely that privacy should be seen as a precondition for the exercise of free speech — without some assurance that privacy rights will be honored, individuals will not speak freely. It’s a great premise with which I agree, and one that I look forward to thinking more about. And if you’re in New York on Monday and can stop by the book launch sponsored by Data & Society, you can ask Neil about it!
Speaking of free expression, the past few weeks have demonstrated that tragic consequences can follow the exercise of rights of free speech. In the wake of the Charlie Hedbo massacre, it is fair to ask whether governments will react to this tragedy by proposing even more stringent incursions on individuals’ privacy in the name of countering terrorism — more surveillance, more data retention, fewer freedoms. Rebecca McKinnon, a true international expert, has written on this problem in a piece with Priya Kumar called The World-Wide Muzzle and What To Do About It. The piece, in the New America Foundation’s Weekly Wonk (lovely title), focuses on a UNESCO report by Rebecca and her colleagues that addresses issues of accountability and transparency. A thought-provoking read.
Finally, it’s always delightful when an old friend publishes new work. It’s even better when that work arrives at just the point when we need the insights it offers. That’s just the case with Free Expression, Globalism and the New Strategic Communication by the prolific and insightful Monroe Price. Based on examples from the Arab Spring, Iran, Russia, and the shaping of the Internet in China, Monroe finds that “the institutional borders of the great adventure in free expression are fraying” in the face of governments’ efforts to constrain the Internet and other channels of communication. I’m looking forward to digging into this one.
If there are interesting and compelling pieces you’re reading or watching about privacy these days, we’d love to know about them. Please tell us on Facebook or Twitter, and we’ll share them through the blog.