Gajda, "Seek and Hide: The Tangled History of the Right to Privacy"

We missed this book when it came out last year: Amy Gajda (Tulane Law School), Seek and Hide: The Tangled History of the Right to Privacy (Viking, 2022). A description from the Press:

Should everyone have privacy in their personal lives? Can privacy exist in a public place? Is there a right to be left alone even in the United States? You may be startled to realize that the original framers were sensitive to the importance of   privacy interests relating to sexuality and intimate life, but mostly just for powerful and privileged (and usually white) men. 

The battle between an individual’s right to privacy and the public’s right to know has been fought for centuries. The founders demanded privacy for all the wrong press-quashing reasons. Supreme Court jus­tice Louis Brandeis famously promoted First Amend­ment freedoms but argued strongly for privacy too; and presidents from Thomas Jefferson through Don­ald Trump confidently hid behind privacy despite intense public interest in their lives.  
Today privacy seems simultaneously under siege and surging. And that’s doubly dangerous, as legal expert Amy Gajda argues. Too little privacy leaves ordinary people vulnerable to those who deal in and publish soul-crushing secrets. Too much means the famous and infamous can cloak themselves in secrecy and dodge accountability.
Seek and Hide carries us from the very start, when privacy concepts first entered American law and society, to now, when the law al­lows a Silicon Valley titan to destroy a media site like Gawker out of spite. Muckraker Upton Sinclair, like Nellie Bly before him, pushed the envelope of privacy and propriety and then became a privacy advocate when journalists used the same techniques against him.  By the early 2000s we were on our way to today’s full-blown crisis in the digital age, worrying that smartphones, webcams, basement publishers, and the forever internet had erased the right to privacy completely.
Praise from reviewers:

“For anyone who mistakenly believes that the debate about press freedom and privacy is a twenty-first-century problem, Amy Gajda’s Seek and Hide is a reminder that ‘gotcha’ journalism, political sex scandals, and hand-wringing over new technologies date back to the Founding Era. In this gorgeously written, rollicking account of a very complicated, very Ameri­can history of the smackdown between privacy versus the right to know, Gajda offers indispensable and timely context for contemporary debates about the boundaries of both. Ultimately Seek and Hide also serves as a bracing reminder that the laws of privacy and politics are often shaped by self-interested parties with the most to gain and the most to hide.” -- Dahlia Lithwick 

“A magnificent book that shows us that the tension between the right to privacy and freedom of expres­sion is as old as this country yet as recent as social media and doorbell cameras. At a time when we all must be concerned about what it all means for each of us, Amy Gajda has written the definitive book about privacy and the right to know.”— Erwin Chemerinsky

An excerpt is available here, via the American Bar Association. An interview with Professor Gadja is available here, at New Books Network.

-- Karen Tani



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