Visionary Pragmatism and the Value of Privacy in the Twenty-First Century

Part I of our Review discusses the central premises of Understanding Privacy, with particular attention paid to Solove’s pragmatic methodology and his taxonomy of privacy. We introduce his pluralistic approach to conceptualizing privacy, which urges decision makers to assess privacy problems in context, and we explore his view that meaningful choices about privacy depend on an appreciation of how privacy benefits society as a whole. We also describe how Solove’s taxonomy aims to account for the variety of activities that threaten privacy. In Part II, we analyze the strengths of Solove’s pragmatism by demonstrating its functionality and flexibility in the face of evolving challenges like government-run fusion centers and the government’s use of social-media technologies to interact with the public. Part III contends that Solove’s pragmatic approach to balancing privacy against competing interests might benefit from more detailed instruction to policymakers. In this regard, we offer several suggestions to ensure the framework’s continued vitality.