The battle between an individual's right to privacy and the public's right to know has been fought for centuries. The founders demanded privacy for all the wrong press-quashing reasons. Seek and Hide carries us from the very start, when privacy concepts first entered American law and society, to now, when the law allows a Silicon Valley titan to destroy a media site like Gawker out of spite. Muckraker Upton Sinclair, like Nellie Bly before him, pushed the envelope of privacy and propriety and then became a privacy advocate when journalists used the same techniques against him. By the early 2000s we were on our way to today's full-blown crisis in the digital age, worrying that smartphones, webcams, basement publishers, and the forever internet had erased the right to privacy completely.
Wry and fascinating ... Emotions and feelings come up a lot in Seek and Hide — something I wasn’t expecting from a book that does serious work as a history of ideas, too. Gajda, who was a journalist before becoming a law professor, is a nimble storyteller; even if some of her conclusions are bound to be contentious, she’s an insightful guide to a rich and textured history that gets easily caricatured, especially when a culture war is raging ... A number of people in Gajda’s book can seem like free speech absolutists in one context and zealous advocates for privacy rights in another ... Just because Gajda acknowledges the personal damage wrought by such decisions doesn’t mean that she comes down categorically on the side of Team Privacy; the issues are too complicated, the history too circuitous ... Gajda says that she used to be uncomfortable with the idea that courts could balance protections for an individual’s dignity and liberty with protections for a free press and free speech; as a journalist, she was worried that an overzealous judiciary might curtail the reporting of real news that powerful interests were keen to keep secret. Now she seems to see things differently, placing what seems to me a surprising amount of faith in the judicial branch and even Facebook’s Oversight Board ... This strikes me as the kind of wistful generalization that’s otherwise absent from this smart and empathetic book.
Amy Gajda links our present struggle to an underappreciated tradition in American law and thought ... Gajda traces the championing of privacy...back to the nation’s founding ... Gajda’s chronicle reveals an enduring tension between principles of free speech and respect for individuals’ private lives. But it also throws into sharp relief how much the context for that debate has changed in the past several decades ... There is another lesson to be drawn from Gajda’s history. From the earliest days of the republic, privacy law has best served the most privileged in American society: those with considerable clout and resources at their disposal.