Category Archives: Privacy

Paper accepted to U. Penn. J. Int’l Law!

A paper I co-authored with my colleagues at TILT (Bert-Jaap Koops, Tjerk Timan, Ivan Škorvánek, Tomislav Chokrevski, and Maša Galič), entitled “A Typology of Privacy“, has been accepted to the University of Pennsylvania Journal of International Law. We workshopped an earlier version of this paper at the Privacy Law Scholar’s Conference (PLSC) in 2015. I think this paper makes a significant contribution to the privacy literature and I’m really proud of what our team was able to accomplish here. The paper is available at SSRN.

Privacy Typology

The abstract is here:

Despite the difficulty of capturing the nature and boundaries of privacy, it is important to conceptualize it. Some scholars develop unitary theories of privacy in the form of a unified conceptual core; others offer classifications of privacy that make meaningful distinctions between different types of privacy. We argue that the latter approach is underdeveloped and in need of improvement. In this paper, we propose a typology of privacy that is more systematic and comprehensive than any existing model.

Our typology is developed, first, by a systematic analysis of constitutional protections of privacy in nine jurisdictions: the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, the Czech Republic, Poland, and Slovenia. This analysis yields a broad overview of the types of privacy that constitutional law seeks to protect. Second, we have studied literature from privacy scholars in the same nine jurisdictions, in order to identify the main dimensions along which privacy can be classified. Our analysis led us to structure types of privacy in a two-dimensional mode, consisting of eight basic types of privacy (bodily, intellectual, spatial, decisional, communicational, associational, proprietary, and behavioral privacy), with an overlay of a ninth type (informational privacy) that overlaps, but does not coincide, with the eight basic types.

Because of the comprehensive and large-scale comparative nature of the analysis, this paper offers a fundamental contribution to the theoretical literature on privacy. Our typology can serve as an analytic and explanatory model that helps to understand what privacy is, why privacy cannot be reduced to informational privacy, how privacy relates to the right to privacy, and how the right to privacy varies, but also corresponds, across a broad range of countries..

Paper accepted to Indiana Law Journal!

My new paper, “Collateral Visibility: Police Body Cameras, Public Disclosure, and Privacy,” on body-worn camera adoption, privacy, and public access to BWC footage has been accepted by the Indiana Law Journal!  The draft (which is undergoing an update) is available on SSRN ( All comments, corrections, etc. are welcome.

The abstract follows:

Law enforcement use of body-worn cameras has recently become a subject of significant public and scholarly debate. This article presents the findings from an empirical examination of the legal and social implications of body-worn camera adoption by two police departments in Washington State. In particular, this study focuses on the public disclosure of body-worn camera footage under Washington State’s Public Records Act (PRA), provides an analysis of state privacy and access to information law, and presents empirical findings related to officer attitudes towards—and perceptions of—the impact of these laws on their work, their own personal privacy, and the privacy of the citizens they serve. The law in Washington State requires law enforcement agencies to disclose substantial amounts of footage, and options for withholding footage based on privacy grounds are very limited under the PRA and recent Washington State Supreme Court case law. Additionally, broad public records requests for body-worn camera footage have posed significant problems for civilian privacy. Police officers report strong concerns about public disclosure of their footage, largely because of the potential for such footage to impact civilian privacy interests, and officers also report high levels of disagreement with the current requirements to disclose most footage to any member of the public. However, officers are supportive of limited access policies that would allow individuals connected to an incident to obtain footage. This article concludes by making a normative argument for restricting public access to some body-worn camera footage on privacy grounds while still preserving adequate space for robust civilian oversight and police accountability.

Chapter published in new book: Privacy, Security and Accountability

A paper I authored, entitled “Mass Surveillance, Privacy, and Freedom: A Case for Public Access to Government Surveillance Information“,  is now out in the new book Privacy, Security and Accountability: Ethics, Law and Policy published by Rowman & Littlefield International  and edited by Adam D. Moore. RLI | Amazon

The book also includes contributions from Adam D. Moore and Michael A. Katell, Anita Allen, Helen Nissenbaum, James Stacey Taylor,  Judith Wagner DeCew, Dorota Mokrosinska, Annabelle Lever, Kay Mathieson, Kenneth Einar Himma, Alan Rubel,  and Nadine Strossen.

Privacy, Security and Accountability
Privacy, Security and Accountability (Rowman & Littlefield Int’l, 2015)

Presentations at APC and PLSC-Amsterdam

It’s been a busy (but fun!) weekend.

I presented two papers at the Amsterdam Privacy Conference – one on ALPR database disclosures by police departments under freedom of information law and the other on body-worn camera adoption by police in the United States. Members of my research team at TILT also organized a panel on privacy ‘bubbles’ in public space related to our longer-term research project on re-imagining privacy for the twenty-first century.

At Privacy Law Scholars Conference (PLSC) – Amsterdam, we had our paper, A Typology of Privacy and the Right to Privacy, workshopped by a wonderful group of scholars from all over Europe and North America!  I also led a session and commented on a paper by Arno Lodder about legal regulation of police use of web-crawling technologies.

Chapter published in new book: Social Dimensions of Privacy

A paper I’ve co-authored with my UW iSchool colleagues Adam D. Moore and Cheryl Metoyer, entitled Privacy in the Family,  is now out in the new book Social Dimensions of Privacy: Interdisciplinary Perspectives published by Cambridge University Press and edited by Beate Roessler and Dorota Mokrosinska. CUP | Amazon

The book also includes contributions from Dorota Mokrosinska, Beate Roessler, James Rule, Gary T. Marx, Priscilla M. Regan, Daniel J. Solove, Judith Wagner DeCew, Koen Bruynseels, Jeroen van den Hoven, Beate Roessler, Annabelle Lever, Colin J. Bennett, Adam Molnar, Christopher Parsons, Kirsty Hughes, Valerie Steeves, Anita L. Allen, Helen Nissenbaum, Andreas Busch, and Paul M. Schwartz.

Social Dimensions of Privacy (Cambridge University Press, 2015)

From the book’s description:

Written by a select international group of leading privacy scholars, Social Dimensions of Privacy endorses and develops an innovative approach to privacy. By debating topical privacy cases in their specific research areas, the contributors explore the new privacy-sensitive areas: legal scholars and political theorists discuss the European and American approaches to privacy regulation; sociologists explore new forms of surveillance and privacy on social network sites; and philosophers revisit feminist critiques of privacy, discuss markets in personal data, issues of privacy in health care and democratic politics. The broad interdisciplinary character of the volume will be of interest to readers from a variety of scientific disciplines who are concerned with privacy and data protection issues.

In the News: I’m featured in an NPR story on ALPR Database Analysis

I am featured in a story from today’s All Things Considered on National Public Radio (NPR) on the topic of automated license plate reader (ALPR) data. I discuss some of my preliminary data analysis using a few databases received from the Seattle Police Department under state freedom of information law.

Questions Remain About How To Use Data From License Plate Scanners (link to transcript on NPR’s website)
By Martin Kaste
May 27, 2015

Seattle Police Dept ALPR Scans by Census Tract (Jan 9-Apr 6, 2013)

I’ve been busy analyzing a number of automated license plate recognition (ALPR) databases disclosed by the Seattle Police Department.  These databases were disclosed under state freedom of information (FOI) law, and I am currently mapping scans of license plates, visualizing scanning patterns, and I hope to publish some additional findings in the near future, in the meantime, here’s a sneak peak at the number of scans by 2010 Census Tract, darker colors mean more scans.  Hover your mouse over any tract to see the number of scans that occurred within its boundaries.  The database covers scans by the SPD’s PIPs system, which is mounted on Patrol Vehicles that roam the city scanning plates.  See the Viz here.

Cross-Post: Metadata Surveillance, Secrecy, and Political Liberty (Part Two)

(Image: NSA slide leaked by Edward Snowden describing the PRISM surveillance program)
(Image: NSA slide leaked by Edward Snowden describing the PRISM surveillance program)

My second post in a two-part series on metadata surveillance and liberty has been posted to the Digital Media Law Project’s blog (DMLP Blog).

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), a widely ratified international human rights treaty, includes provisions that relate to liberal and republican conceptions of freedom that are relevant to current discussions about mass government surveillance and communications intelligence gathering. Article 17 of the ICCPR states that, “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honour and reputation.”  Article 18 guarantees the freedoms of thought, conscience, and religion, and Article 19 guarantees the “right to hold opinions without interference” and the “right to freedom of expression.”  The European Convention on Human Rights, an important regional – rather than truly international – treaty, also provides similar protections, as do the constitutions and charters of many other democratic countries. The relevance of these treaties and philosophical accounts of freedom are tied directly to all three of the questions posed in my first post in this series but, I think, they are most interesting when applied to the third question: what transparency and oversight mechanisms ought to govern the collection of communications information by governmental intelligence agencies?

… [continue reading at the DMLP blog]

Cross-Post: Metadata Surveillance, Secrecy, and Political Liberty (Part One)

I have just written a new post for the Digital Media Law Project’s blog about some of the implications of government metadata surveillance.  For the full post, which was posted today, go to the DMLP Blog.

As much of the world is now undoubtedly aware, the National Security Administration (NSA), and many other signals intelligence agencies around the world, have been conducting sophisticated electronic surveillance for quite some time. Many might have expected that such extensive surveillance was occurring, both domestically and globally, prior to Edward Snowden’s release of classified information in June 2013.  Indeed, we’ve known about the existence of government driven metadata surveillance and international intelligence cooperation and data-sharing for years.  The UKUSA Agreement, which links intelligence agencies in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, was declassified by the NSA in 2011, but its existence was reported much earlier.  

What we haven’t known, perhaps, are some of the specifics… [continue reading at the DMLP blog]