New Book: Privacy in Public Space

I’m very happy to announce that a new book I’ve co-edited with Tjerk Timan (TNO) and Bert-Jaap Koops (TILT) is now available for pre-order via Edward Elgar’s website or Amazon. The book, Privacy in Public Space: Conceptual and Regulatory Challenges, will be out in November, and is being published as part of the Elgar Law, Technology and Society book series. The Edward Elgar website also includes a form to recommend the book to your local (university) librarian.


This book examines privacy in public space from both legal and regulatory perspectives. With on-going technological innovations such as mobile cameras, WiFi tracking, drones and augmented reality, aspects of citizens’ lives are increasingly vulnerable to intrusion. The contributions describe contemporary challenges to achieving privacy and anonymity in physical public space, at a time when legal protection remains limited compared to ‘private’ space. To address this problem, the book clearly shows why privacy in public space needs defending. Different ways of conceptualizing and shaping such protection are explored, for example through ‘privacy bubbles’, obfuscation and surveillance transparency, as well as revising the assumptions underlying current privacy laws.

Table of contents:

Introduction: Conceptual directions for privacy in public space
Tjerk Timan, Bryce Clayton Newell, and Bert-Jaap Koops

Part I: Philosophical and Empirical Insights
1. Conceptualising Space and Place: Lessons from Geography for the Debate on Privacy in Public
Bert-Jaap Koops and Maša Galic

2. Hidden in plain sight
Michael Nagenborg

3. Privacy in public and the contextual conditions of agency
Maria Brincker

4. A politico-economic perspective on privacy in public spaces
Karsten Mause

5. Visually Distant and Virtually Close: Public and Private Spaces in the Archives de la Planète (1909–1931) and Life in a Day (2011)
Julia M. Hildebrand

Part II: Law and Regulation
6. Exposure and concealment in digitized public spaces
Steven B. Zhao

7. Covering up: American and European legal approaches to public facial anonymity after S.A.S. v France
Angela Daly

8. Privacy impact notices to address the privacy pollution of mass surveillance
A. Michael Froomkin

9. Privacy in Public Spaces: The Problem of Out-of-Body DNA
Albert E. Scherr

10. The Internet of Other People’s Things
Meg Leta Jones

11. The need for privacy in public space
Tjerk Timan

New Paper: Visual Surveillance and Voyeurism in Criminal Law

A new paper I’ve written with colleagues at Tilburg University and Melbourne Law School has just been accepted to Law & Social Inquiry. We expect publication in mid-2018. Information below:

The Reasonableness of Remaining Unobserved: A Comparative Analysis of Visual Surveillance and Voyeurism in Criminal Law

Bert-Jaap Koops, Bryce Clayton Newell, Andrew Roberts, Ivan Škorvánek, and Maša Galič

The criminalization of offensive behavior is an important form of privacy protection, but few studies exist of visual observation in criminal law. We address this gap by researching when nonconsensual visual observation is deemed harmful enough to trigger criminal sanctions, and on what basis the law construes the “reasonableness of remaining unobserved,” through a nine-country comparative study (Canada, Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Slovenia, UK, and US). We distinguish between a voyeurism-centric approach (focusing largely on nudity and sex) and a broader, intrusion-centric approach (such as observation inside closed spaces). Both approaches explicitly or implicitly reflect “reasonable” privacy expectations, by listing criteria for situations in which people can reasonably expect to remain unobserved or unrecorded. We discuss these criteria to present a framework for criminalizing nonconsensual visual observation, encompassing factors of technology use, place, subject matter, and surreptitiousness that create substantial disruptions in impression management, supplemented by factors of intent, identifiability, and counter-indicators to prevent overcriminalization. We explain this framework as relevant for protecting visual aspects of privacy in view of individuals’ underlying interests in autonomy, and show how visual-observation crimes can be interpreted as ways to assist people in their impression management in situations where disruptions occur in self-presentation and where normal techniques of rebalancing impressions provide insufficient redress. Discussing whether legal frameworks reflect contemporary socio-technical realities, we observe a gap in legal protection relating to non-covert taking of autonomy-undermining images in public as a major up-coming challenge to impression management.