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Privacy book club debut

Watch out, Oprah! The IAPP will host its first-ever Privacy Professionals Book Club event at the IAPP Privacy Summit 2009 in March. This session will provide conference attendees with a new venue for thought-provoking exploration and discussion of cutting-edge privacy issues. Professor Dan Solove's groundbreaking new work, Understanding Privacy, will provide inaugural fodder.
To kick off the session, Professor Solove will offer a high-level overview of his book. Then participants will break into smaller groups for discussions facilitated by leading experts in the field

A discussion of Understanding Privacy could not be timelier. As privacy professionals, we are often tasked with explaining to coworkers why privacy matters, and to identify privacy issues as they arise. Professor Solove offers a great tool for placing privacy issues in context and gives privacy professionals a simple language they can use to discuss privacy challenges with the uninitiated. The book takes a pragmatic, bottoms-up approach to solving privacy problems, and helps explain why traditional interpretations of privacy are not sufficient to resolve twenty-first century privacy issues.

Professor Peter Swire has said of Professor Solove's new framework for privacy that it has "become the standard tool for analyzing privacy problems." I think his work is important, too.

The IAPP would like to hear your opinion. Read the book. Join the discussion. Enhance your understanding.

I hope you will join us at the Privacy Professionals Book Club in March.

P.S. A tip for the busy professional: While the book deserves to be read from cover to cover, readers pressed for time can concentrate on Chapters 1, 5, and 6.

Reader's Guide

No book club selection would be complete without a Reader's Guide, so here are some questions to consider as you read Understanding Privacy:

(1) Professor Solove argues that it is practically impossible to define privacy as a unified concept, and thus prefers a pragmatic approach that focuses on privacy problems. Do you agree?

(2) Professor Solove breaks down privacy issues into four basic groups of harmful activities (a) information collection, (b) information processing, (c) information dissemination, and (d) invasion. Do you agree with his taxonomy? Is this list of privacy issues incomplete?

(3) How would Professor Solove's taxonomy of privacy apply to data mining? To behavioral advertising? To user behavior in social networking? To Fourth Amendment law?

(4) How do you as a privacy professional identify and frame privacy problems at work?

(5) Do you think Professor Solove focuses too much on privacy problems? Is his analysis biased by not focusing as much on the contributions of privacy to society?

(6) Professor Solove says that "courts and policymakers struggle with identifying the presence of a privacy problem." He further notes that courts generally find no privacy interest if "information is in the public domain, if people are monitored in public, if information is gathered in a public place, if no intimate or embarrassing details are revealed, or if no new data is collected about a person." Question: Would Professor Solove's new framework for privacy change this perception?

(7) Some of Professor Solove's categories of privacy seem to be at odds with one another. According to Professor Solove, both identification and insecurity pose privacy problems. However, couldn't one argue that, in some contexts, a lack of adequate identification can lead to security problems (e.g. identity theft)? How does Solove expect to balance competing privacy interests?

(8) Does Professor Solove's vision of privacy reflect our understanding of what privacy means today? Or is it an aspirational work describing what privacy ought to mean?


Information collection

Surveilliance: the watching, listening to, or recording of an individual's activities

Interrogation: consists of various forms of questioning or probing for information

Information Processing: Privacy violations involving way data is stored, manipulated or used.

involves the combination of various pieces of data about a person

Linking information to particular individuals

carelessness in protecting stored information from leaks and improper access

Secondary use: Use of collected information for a purpose different than the use for which it was collected without the data subject's consent

the failure to allow the data subject to know about the data that others have about her and participate in its handling and use

Information dissemination:
Spreading or transfer of personal information or the threat to do so

Breach of confidentiality:
breaking a promise to keep a person's information confidential

Revelation of truthful information about a person that affects the way others judge her reputation

Exposure: revealing another's nudity, grief, or bodily functions

Increased accessibility: amplifying the accessibility of information

The threat to disclose personal information

Distortion: consists of disseminating false or misleading information

Intrusion: invasive acts that disturb one's tranquility or solitude

Decisional interference:
incursion into the data subject's decisions regarding her private affairs

There's a nice chart that describes Professor Solove's Taxonomy of Privacy visually on page 104 of the book.


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