The Privacy Advocates

The Privacy Advocates

Resisting the Spread of Surveillance

By Colin J. Bennett

An analysis of the people and groups who have emerged to challenge the increasingly intrusive ways personal information is captured, processed, and disseminated.





An analysis of the people and groups who have emerged to challenge the increasingly intrusive ways personal information is captured, processed, and disseminated.

Today, personal information is captured, processed, and disseminated in a bewildering variety of ways, and through increasingly sophisticated, miniaturized, and distributed technologies: identity cards, biometrics, video surveillance, the use of cookies and spyware by Web sites, data mining and profiling, and many others. In The Privacy Advocates, Colin Bennett analyzes the people and groups around the world who have risen to challenge the most intrusive surveillance practices by both government and corporations. Bennett describes a network of self-identified privacy advocates who have emerged from civil society—without official sanction and with few resources, but surprisingly influential. A number of high-profile conflicts in recent years have brought this international advocacy movement more sharply into focus. Bennett is the first to examine privacy and surveillance not from a legal, political, or technical perspective but from the viewpoint of these independent activists who have found creative ways to affect policy and practice. Drawing on extensive interviews with key informants in the movement, he examines how they frame the issue and how they organize, who they are and what strategies they use. He also presents a series of case studies that illustrate how effective their efforts have been, including conflicts over key-escrow encryption (which allows the government to read encrypted messages), online advertising through third-party cookies that track users across different Web sites, and online authentication mechanisms such as the short-lived Microsoft Passport. Finally, Bennett considers how the loose coalitions of the privacy network could develop into a more cohesive international social movement.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262026383 288 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 11 figures


$20.00 X ISBN: 9780262514873 288 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 11 figures


  • Academics could benefit from the book's engagement with theory and practice…And activists could benefit from its ability to connect together causes, ideas, and efforts under the banner of privacy.

    The Information Society


  • A thoroughly researched, well structured, and highly readable account of the persons and groups behind the 'privacy movements,' their motivations, strategies, and the conflicts they encounter—this book completes the highly acclaimed, groundbreaking work on the political analysis of regulating privacy.

    Herbert Burkert

    President, Research Centre for Information Law, University of St.Gallen, Switzerland

  • A major contribution to the literature of information privacy and social movements. In this fascinating book, Colin Bennett asks and answers all the key questions about privacy advocates. He explores the who, what, when, and why of policy battles against new surveillance practices. Bennett also provides insightful predictions about the future of networked privacy advocates in civil society.

    Paul M. Schwartz

    School of Law, University of California, Berkeley

  • In this concise, clearly written and highly informative little volume Colin Bennett continues his scholarly illuminations of the elusive (and sometimes illusive) concept of privacy. However hard to pin down and variable across cultures, there is an increasing, nearly universal sense that many technologically enhanced personal data collection practices go too far. Most of us grimace and bear it, but not those Bennett calls the privacy advocates who form a loose transnational network. This is their story—told with affection and objectivity, and thoughtfully grounded in the contemporary research literature.

    Gary T. Marx

    Professor Emeritus, M.I.T., and author of Undercover: Police Surveillance in America


  • Semi-finalist, 2008 Donald McGannon Award for Social and Ethical Relevance in Communications Policy Research, given by the Donald McGannon Communication Research Center.