Summary of How Privacy Became a Commodity for the Rich and Powerful

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The Internet age – combined with a surge in income inequality – is eroding citizens’ right to privacy. New York Times fellow Amanda Hess outlines how powerful institutions are threatening the hard-won modern conception of privacy as an individual right. Increasingly, privacy is becoming a luxury item that only the rich and powerful can afford. getAbstract recommends this sobering essay to everyone interested in protecting their online details.

In this summary, you will learn

  • How the modern concept of privacy came into existence,
  • How the Internet age threatens the right to privacy, and
  • Why the rich and powerful are demanding more privacy at the same time the less well-off are losing theirs.

About the Author

Amanda Hess is a David Carr fellow for The New York Times.



The idea of privacy as a right or an intimate good is a modern conception. The ancient Greeks equated privacy with a state of deprivation; it was ascribed only to the poor who were considered too “common” to participate in public or political life. In the late 18th century, however, the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution codified the idea of a right to privacy – the notion that people should be physically free from invasive search and seizure. A century later, legal scholars began to articulate the idea of mental privacy as well: what some called the right “to be let alone” and to develop and protect one’s own personality...

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