Reading Group Discussion Guides
Matters of Privacy | Summer 2023
In the Summer of 2023, we launched our first reading group. The aims of this inaugural group were:
- To provide trust and safety professionals and other stakeholders in the trust and safety field with a structured opportunity to read and discuss T&S related literature;
- To convene a range of stakeholders (e.g., T&S professionals, academic researchers, civil society organizations) for collaborative conversations;
- To provide a meaningful way for a range of T&S stakeholders to engage with and respond to T&S related literature, including books and academic articles.
Additionally, this reading group provided opportunities for participants to meet one another and form new professional relationships.
What We Read
- Samuel D. Warren and Louis D. Brandeis (1890) “The Right to Privacy”
- Danielle Keats Citron (2022) The Fight for Privacy: Protecting Dignity, Identity, and Love in the Digital Age
- Regina Rini and Leah Cohen (2022) “Deepfakes, Deep Harms”
The Right to Privacy
Warren, an American attorney from Boston, Massachusetts, began his practice after graduating from Harvard Law School in 1877. Brandeis, an American attorney from Louisville, Kentucky, met Warren at Harvard, where the former graduated first in class and the latter graduated second in class. Together, they established the Boston law firm of Nutter McClennen & Fish in 1879. Brandeis later served as an associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court (1916-1939). Warren eventually left law to oversee his family’s paper production business.
Consider that, in 1890 in the United States, the United States Army massacred nearly three hundred Lakota people at Wounded Knee, Jim Crow laws impacted nearly every part of American life, and the new State of Wyoming had just passed woman suffrage, becoming the first to permanently grant women the right to vote.
Directly relevant to “The Right to Privacy,” in 1890 newspapers often featured prominent families (like Warren’s) in their “society pages,” fairly inexpensive portable cameras were becoming more widely available, and the public-private distinction was beginning to erode (Glancy, 1979). That is, both technological developments and shifting societal attitudes were impacting the spread of information about people’s private lives.
Writing about Warren and Brandeis’ article, Dorothy J. Glancy notes: “In simplest terms, for Warren and Brandeis the right to privacy was the right of each individual to protect his or her psychological integrity by exercising control over information which both reflected and affected that individual’s personality.”
As you read Warren and Brandeis’ article, ask yourself what “the right to privacy” and “the right to be let alone” mean today—and how these rights may differ and for whom they apply.
The Fight for Privacy: Protecting Dignity, Identity, and Love in the Digital Age
Daneille Keats Citron is a Jefferson Scholars Foundation Schenck Distinguished Professor in Law, a Caddell and Chapman Professor of Law, and the Director of the LawTech Center at the University of Virginia. She has published two books: Hate Crimes in Cyberspace (2014) and The Fight for Privacy (2022). Citron has also published dozens of articles and essays since her first article in 1992.
According to the bio on her website: “Citron is an affiliate scholar at the Stanford Center on Internet and Society, Yale Information Society Project, and NYU’s Policing Project. She is a member of Axon’s advisory board on artificial intelligence ethics. As a member of the American Law Institute, she serves as an adviser to the Restatement Third, Information Privacy Principles Project and Restatement (Third) Torts: Defamation and Privacy.”
In Citron’s second book, The Fight for Privacy, she argues that “intimate privacy is fundamental to our development” and should be treated as a human and civil right; she also argues that our intimate privacy is under threat from a range of actors–including big tech and the government. A fairly good summary, written by Citron, was published in WIRED. (Or you can watch Citron’s brief overview of her book here.) Given Citron’s past publications about non-consensual intimate image sharing and sexual privacy, it’s perhaps not surprising that much of her new book (and the majority of her examples therein) focus on women and vulnerable persons.
To date, The Fight for Privacy has been cited only a handful of times—mostly in work done by human-computer interaction (HCI) scholars—and has received overwhelmingly favorable reviews.
Deepfakes, Deep Harms
This article was written by Regina Rini and Leah Cohen and published in the Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy in 2022. Rini is an Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair in Philosophy of Moral and Social Cognition at York University; Cohen is Rini’s former graduate student.
In the year since Rini and Cohen’s article was published, numerous media sources (e.g., NPR, The New York Times, Fortune, Forbes) have reported that developments in AI have made it even more challenging to technically and politically address the problems posed by deepfakes. Since the start of this year, there have been more than 3,000 scholarly publications related to deepfakes (see Google Scholar). Clearly, there’s growing interest in this topic among the general public and academics.
What’s interesting about Rini and Cohen’s article is that, rather than trying to solve/resolve the issue of deepfakes, they offer a philosophical framework for understanding the personal harms associated with them: “We will assume that a solution is not immediately forthcoming. Our goal instead is to illustrate why a solution is urgently needed. What are the harms that deepfakes might cause if left unchecked?”