Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment & Technology Law


Lawrence Lessig

First Page



This is an essay about privacy. My aim is to understand privacy through these two very different ideas. Privacy, in the sense that I mean here, can be described by these two different ideas. It stands in competition with these ideas. It is that part of life that is left after one subtracts, as it were, the monitored and the searchable. A life where less is monitored is a life where more is private; and life where less can (legally or technologically) be searched is also a life where more is private. By understanding the technologies of these two different ideas, the monitored and the searchable--understanding, as it were, their architectures--we understand something of the privacy that any particular social context makes possible.

These contexts are many. They differ dramatically across the world. But in this essay, I want to use this notion of the monitored and the searchable to compare privacy across contexts, and to see just why the context we are about to enter is so extraordinarily different from any we have known.

For my claim is that we are entering an age when privacy will be fundamentally altered--an age when the extent of the monitored, and the reach of searchable, is far greater than anything we have known thus far. We can choose to let this change occur, or we can choose to do something in response. After making plain the kind of change we should expect, my aim is to make understandable a range of responses, and to argue, if only implicitly, in favor of one particular response within that range.

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