Privacy: A Very Short Introduction (2nd edition)

ISBN : 9780198725947

Raymond Wacks
176 Pages
144 x 174 mm
Pub date
Mar 2015
Very Short Introductions


To purchase this item, please add the product to your basket and click the Shopping basket link above to view your basket and continue.

Send mail
  • Examines our need for privacy and why it is valued so highly, as well as what constitutes an invasion of privacy
  • Considers the issues of privacy and security, privacy and the paparazzi, and the protection of personal data
  • Discusses the importance of privacy in debates about law and ethics
  • Puts privacy in its wider social context by including examples of its sociological and psychological impact
  • Raymond Wacks is an expert on the legal protection of privacy and how this protection varies in different countries

New to this Edition:

  • Updated to discuss the Leveson Inquiry in 2012, one of the most comprehensive investigations into the ethics and practice of the media, with a section devoted to privacy and media intrusion
  • Examines the extent of surveillance by the United States National Security Agency (NSA) in light of the revelations by Edward Snowden, and highlights a number of issues related to the balance between security and privacy
  • Offers up-to-date discussion of PETS (privacy enhancing technology) and encryption
  • Addresses continuing questions surrounding privacy on Facebook, Twitter, Google's increase in monitoring online activity, the growing use of CCTV, hacking, identity theft, and the advent of Big Data
  • Includes updates related to recent changes in Europe with regards the protection given to individuals by the European Convention on Human Rights

Some would argue that scarcely a day passes without a new assault on our privacy. In the wake of the whistle-blower Edward Snowden's revelations about the extent of surveillance conducted by the security services in the United States, Britain, and elsewhere, concerns about individual privacy have significantly increased. The Internet generates risks, unimagined even twenty years ago, to the security and integrity of information in all its forms. 

The manner in which information is collected, stored, exchanged, and used has changed forever; and with it, the character of the threats to individual privacy. The scale of accessible private data generated by the phenomenal growth of blogs, social media, and other contrivances of our information age pose disturbing threats to our privacy. And the hunger for gossip continues to fuel sensationalist media that frequently degrade the notion of a private domain to which we reasonably lay claim.

In the new edition of this Very Short Introduction, Raymond Wacks looks at all aspects of privacy to include numerous recent changes, and considers how this fundamental value might be reconciled with competing interests such as security and freedom of expression.

"Although physically small, this is a dense book stuffed with facts and arguments. It is to be read slowly and with consideration. And perhaps a degree of worry that Privacy is still so badly defined and addressed by legislation." - Concatenation, Peter Tyres

"[T]here is, to our knowledge, no more erudite and persuasive an advocate for protecting privacy than Raymond Wacks. If you ever find yourself in a debate on privacy versus free speech, this is the succinct yet thoroughly researched source of some very effective arguments in favour of privacy." - Philip Taylor MBE and Elizabeth Taylor of Richmond Green Chambers


1: Privacy in peril
2: An enduring value
3: A legal right
4: Privacy and freedom of expression
5: Data protection
6: The death of privacy?
Further reading

About the author: 

Raymond Wacks, Emeritus Professor of Law and Legal Theory
Raymond Wacks is a leading international authority on privacy. For almost four decades he has published numerous books and articles on the subject including The Protection of Privacy (Sweet & Maxwell, 1980); Personal Information: Privacy and the Law, (OUP, 1989); Privacy, a two-volume collection of essays (Dartmouth and New York University Press, 1993), Privacy and Press Freedom (Blackstone, 1995), and Privacy and Media Freedom (OUP, 2013). He has served on and advised privacy law reform commissions in a number of countries, and is a member of the editorial boards of several privacy-related journals and non-governmental organizations. He has also published numerous books and articles on various aspects of law, including Understanding Jurisprudence: An Introduction to Legal Theory 3rd edn (OUP, 2012), Philosophy of Law: A Very Short Introduction 2nd edn (OUP, 2014), and Law: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2008).

Questions for Thought and Discussion

  • What do you understand by the concept of ‘privacy’? Why has it proved so difficult to define?
  • What are the main functions of privacy? What interests or values does privacy protect?
  • What do you understand by ‘personal information’? Is your telephone number ‘personal information’?
  • Do you agree with the judgments in the cases involving (a) Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones? (b) Naomi Campbell? (c) Princess Caroline?
  • If CCTV cameras can be shown to deter crime and apprehend offenders, should their use be encouraged rather than condemned?
  • Analyse the relationship between the right of privacy and freedom of speech. Can these two (apparently competing) democratic ideals be reconciled? If so, how?
  • Identity cards are required in many countries. Why do privacy advocates oppose their use?
  • ‘We must build into the architecture a capacity to enable choice – not choice by humans but by machines. The architecture must enable machine-to-machine negotiations about privacy so that individuals can instruct their machines about the privacy they want to protect.’ (Lawrence Lessig, Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace p163). How realistic is this prospect? How might it be achieved? Why should cyberspace be willing to build this architecture?
  • Is privacy an unqualified good? If not, what deficiencies or shortcomings does privacy have as a value?
  • What is the difference between ‘privacy’ and the following? Confidentiality, Security, Secrecy, Defamation, Freedom of speech, Autonomy
  • On what grounds do Warren and Brandeis base their case for the recognition of a legal right to privacy?
  • What is a ‘biometric?’ Do biometrics undermine personal privacy? How?
  • In what respects can PETS repel attacks on personal data and improve security online?
  • How is the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v Wade related to the protection of privacy?
  • Can you explain the differential cultural and social attitudes towards ‘privacy’ (in its most general sense) in various societies?
  • What is the central purpose of data protection legislation? In what respects does it preserve privacy? Would a comprehensive data protection regime obviate the need for privacy legislation?
  • Why should the revelations by NSA whistle-blower, Edward Snowden of surveillance by the intelligence services in several countries, worry ordinary, law-abiding individuals or groups?
  • Why have Google and Facebook been attacked for failing adequately to protect users’ privacy? Are these criticisms justified?
  • What is the ‘right to be forgotten’? Does its enforcement undermine freedom of expression or freedom of information?
  • Is privacy dead?

Other books by Raymond Wacks

  • The Protection of Privacy(Sweet & Maxwell, 1980)
  • Personal Information: Privacy and the Law (OUP, 1989 and 1993)
  • Privacy, Volumes 1 and 2(Dartmouth and New York University Press, 1993)
  • Privacy and Press Freedom (Blackstone Press, 1995)
  • Privacy and Media Freedom (OUP 2013)

Further reading

  • Goldsmith, J. and Wu, T., Who Controls the Internet? Illusions of a Borderless World(Oxford University Press, 2006)
  • Solove, D.J.,Nothing to Hide: The False Tradeoff between Privacy and Security (Yale University Press, 2013)
  • Angwin, J.,Dragnet Nation: A Quest for Privacy, Security, and Freedom in a World of Relentless Surveillance (Times Books, 2014)
  • Brenner, J.,Glass Houses: Privacy, Secrecy, and Cyber Insecurity in a Transparent World(Penguin, 2013)
  • Witzleb, N., Lindsay, D., Paterson, M., Rodrick. S., (eds),Emerging Challenges in Privacy Law: Comparative Perspectives (Cambridge University Press, 2014)
  • Bygrave, L.A.,Data Privacy Law: An International Perspective(Oxford University Press, 2014)

The price listed on this page is the recommended retail price for Japan. When a discount is applied, the discounted price is indicated as “Discount price”. Prices are subject to change without notice.