The Unwanted Gaze: The Destruction of Privacy in America

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9780679765202: The Unwanted Gaze: The Destruction of Privacy in America

The Unwanted Gaze is an important book about one of the most pressing issues of our day: how changes in technology and the law have combined to demolish our rights of privacy, and what we can and must do to re-secure them.

In a world in which Ken Starr can subpoena Monica Lewinsky?s bookstore receipts and deleted e-mail messages can be used as justification for firing employees, it?s clear that private information of all kinds can be taken out of context and wielded against us. Where exactly did our constitutional guarantees on privacy go? In superbly lucid prose, Jeffrey Rosen tells not only where those privacy rights went but also how we can get them back. The Unwanted Gaze is utterly indispensable for anyone who cares about the future of his or her private life.

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Review:

George Washington University law professor Jeffrey Rosen offers a vigorous defense of privacy in this book inspired by "the constitutional, legal, and political drama that culminated in the impeachment and acquittal of President Bill Clinton." He is particularly piqued at Ken Starr's investigation of Monica Lewinsky's private life, including her book-buying habits and the love letters she stored on her computer but never sent. "Privacy protects us from being misdefined and judged out of context in a world of short attention spans, a world in which information can easily be confused with knowledge," writes Rosen, who is also a legal affairs writer for The New Republic. "In such a world, it is easy for individuals to be victimized by the reductionist fallacy that the worst truth about them is also the most important truth."

Rosen has two overriding concerns: how sexual-harassment law has underwritten invasions of privacy (it was Paula Jones's suit against Clinton, after all, that led to the Lewinsky revelations), and how the Internet threatens anonymity (he criticizes, for instance, Amazon.com's "creepy feature that uses ZIP codes and domain names to identify the most popular books purchased on-line by employees at prominent corporations"). Much of The Unwanted Gaze reads like a law review article--albeit one written with the storytelling touch of a professional reporter--and at times Rosen seems to aim mainly for an academic audience. Yet the book remains entirely open to lay readers, especially when Rosen delivers his impassioned apologies for privacy: "There are dangers to pathological lying, but there are also dangers to pathological truth-telling. Privacy is a form of opacity, and opacity has its values. We need more shades and more blinds and more virtual curtains. Someday, perhaps, we will look back with nostalgia on a society that still believed opacity was possible and was shocked to discover what happens when it is not." Rosen is a sharp thinker with a knack for conveying complex ideas through readable prose. --John J. Miller

From the Back Cover:

"Brilliant and haunting...a pleasure to read."–The Washington Post Book World

“Rosen makes a complex subject fascinating by showing us how vulnerable we all are. His message: Pay attention. It could happen to you.”–The Denver Post

“This remarkably rich and detailed book sharpens our understanding of a problem that most of us prefer not to think about.”–The New York Times Book Review

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