“This brilliant and thought-provoking book shows how America’s well-known emphasis on freedom of the press has long been balanced by a deep legal tradition that protects an individual’s right to privacy. Amy Gajda shows how battles over the right to privacy are nothing new, but they are particularly relevant in this era of digital media and social networks.”—Walter Isaacson, author of Steve Jobs


The surprising story of the fitful development of the right to privacy—and its battle against the public’s right to know--across American history.


There is no hotter topic than the desire to constrain tech companies like Facebook from exploiting our personal data, or to keep Alexa from spying on you. Privacy has also provoked constitutional crisis (presidential tax returns) while Justice Clarence Thomas seeks to remove the protection of journalists who publish the truth about public officials. Is privacy under deadly siege, or actually surging?
 
The answer is both, but that's doubly dangerous, as legal expert Amy Gajda proves. Too little privacy means that unwanted exposure by those who deal in and publish secrets. Too much means the famous and infamous can cloak themselves in secrecy and shut down inquiry, and return us to the time before movements like Black Lives Matter and #MeToo opened eyes to hidden truths.
 
We are not the first generation to grapple with that clash, to worry that new technologies and fraying social mores pose an existential threat to our privacy while we recognize the value in knowing certain things. Seek and Hide carries us from the Gilded Age, when the concept of a right to privacy by name first entered American law and society, to now, when the law allows a Silicon Valley titan like Peter Thiel to destroy a media site like Gawker out of spite. 
 
Disturbingly, she shows that the original concern was not about intrusions into the lives of ordinary folks, but that the wealthy and powerful should not have their dignity assaulted by the wretches of the popular press like Nellie Bly. Alexander Hamilton argued both sides of the issue depending on what it was being known, and about whom. The modern right is anchored in a landmark 1890 essay by Louis Brandeis before he joined the Supreme Court, where he continued his instrumental support for the "privacies of life." In the 1960s, privacy interests gave way to the glory days of investigative reporting in the era of Vietnam and Watergate. By the 1990s we were on our way to today's full-blown crisis of privacy in the digital age, from websites to webcams and the Forever Internet erasing our “right to be forgotten.” Or does it?
 
We stand today at another crossroads in which privacy is widely believed to be under assault from every direction by the anything-for-clicks business model and technology that can record and report our every move.  This timely book reminds us to remember the lessons of history: that such a seemingly innocent call can also be used to restrict essential freedoms to a democracy--because it already has.
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