The start of the 21st century is a moment of many challenges for American law, perhaps none more important than challenges posed by the rise of the digital age with its refiguring of our sense of the meaning of autonomy and of the social. But, in addition, to those challenges we live with new modalities of surveillance, new reproductive technologies, and the biotechnology revolution. Each seems to portend a world without privacy or at least a world in which the meaning of privacy is radically transformed both as a legal idea and a lived reality.
We want to examine the meaning of privacy in contemporary world and ask whether privacy is an outdated, almost romantic, ideal. How far have we come from Warren and Brandeis? Today what is the best way to conceive of the divide between the public and the private, the domain of individual autonomy defined in terms of negative freedom? Is privacy shrinking in some areas and expanding in others? Does it mean the same thing in the realm of intimate, personal activities as it does in the domain of the digital world? What were, and are, the dangers of privacy? Are our laws complicit in the erosion of privacy? Can law meet the challenge of protecting privacy from new threats or do we need new political as well as social responses?