Privacy Experts Neil Richards and Danielle Citron Talk About Why Privacy Matters

By TAP Staff Blogger

Posted on January 13, 2023


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“Information privacy is particularly important at this particular point in human history.”
  - Professor Neil Richards.

 

Neil Richards, a law professor at the Washington University in St. Louis and an internationally-recognized expert in privacy law, information law, and freedom of expression, joins University of Virginia law professor Danielle Citron and UVA Law’s Dean Risa Goluboff to discuss how privacy regulation could ensure that information cannot be used to gain control and influence others. In UVA’s podcast, Common Law, Professor Richards explains the extent to which companies mine data and seek to influence individuals, and why people should care.

 

Professor Richards’ new book, Why Privacy Matters explains what privacy is, what privacy isn’t, and why privacy matters. The book describes privacy as the extent to which human information is known or used, and says privacy is fundamentally about the social power that human information provides over other people.

 

In this Common Law podcast, Professor Richards shares insights from his book, Why Privacy Matters. Below is an overview of the podcast, “Why Privacy Matters” with Neil Richards, Danielle Citron, and Risa Goluboff. Recorded June 23, 2022.

 

Summary

 

Privacy regulation could ensure that information cannot be used to gain control and influence others.

 

Main Points

 
  • Privacy cannot be defined with specificity, but this is true of many important values, such as the rule of law, equality, and liberty.
     
  • Sound privacy rules promote three values, as follows:
     
    • They allow us to form our authentic identities.
       
    • They allow us to exercise political rights.
       
    • They give us the ability to have trust in the digital economy.
       
  • Technology companies may seek to distract the public from concerns about privacy.
     
    • Firms may use rhetoric about innovation being threatened by regulation.
       
    • Firms may purport to give users control over their data, but control is overwhelming, and firms may offer mainly the illusion of control.
       
    • Firms may collect more data than we realize.
       
  • Although we all need privacy at one time or another, privacy is not about hiding dark secrets; rather, privacy is about power, that is, the use of information to control and influence people.
     
  • Privacy is a social value, not just an individual matter.
     
  • A commitment to democracy calls for privacy regulation of some kind, that is, the use of rules to constrain the power that technologies confer.
     
  • People can call for reasonable consumer protection and privacy rules to promote human flourishing; privacy can be seen as a nonpartisan issue, and can be protected in a way that is good for business and good for human beings.
     

Conclusion

 

Like liberty, equality, and other important human values, privacy cannot always be defined with specificity. Privacy rules could allow us to form authentic identities, exercise political rights, and engage in the digital economy with trust. Privacy is a social value, not just an individual matter. Privacy is about the power to manipulate others, and a commitment to democracy requires privacy regulation.

 

Listen to the full podcast, “Why Privacy Matters” with Neil Richards, Danielle Citron, and Risa Goluboff. This podcast is available on various listening apps, see show notes on the UVA Common Law episode page for options.

 

It is also available for listening on YouTube.

 

“Why Privacy Matters”

 
 

Read More of Professor Richards’ Research on Why Privacy Matters:

 

Neil Richards is the Koch Distinguished Professor in Law at Washington University School of Law, where he co-directs the Cordell Institute for Policy in Medicine & Law. He is an internationally-recognized expert in privacy law, information law, and freedom of expression. He writes, teaches, and lectures about the regulation of the technologies powered by human information that are revolutionizing our society.

 

Danielle Citron is the Jefferson Scholars Foundation Schenck Distinguished Professor in Law and Caddell and Chapman Professor of Law at UVA, where she writes and teaches about privacy, free expression and civil rights. Her scholarship and advocacy have been recognized nationally and internationally. In 2019, Citron was named a MacArthur Fellow based on her work on cyberstalking and intimate privacy. In 2018, she received the UMD Champion of Excellence award and in 2015, the United Kingdom’s Prospect Magazine named her one of the Top 50 World Thinkers and The Daily Record named her one of the Top 50 Most Influential Marylanders. She serves as the inaugural director of the school’s LawTech Center, which focuses on pressing questions in law and technology.


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