cover image The Unwanted Gaze: The Destruction of Privacy in America

The Unwanted Gaze: The Destruction of Privacy in America

Jeffrey Rosen. Random House (NY), $24.95 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-679-44546-3

Why were Paula Jones's lawyers ""permitted to go on a fishing expedition into the President's sexual history?"" Why was Kenneth Starr able to subpoena store records of books Monica Lewinsky had purchased? Why was he able to retrieve unsent love letters on her home computer? The erosion of privacy in American life, as demonstrated by the Clinton/Lewinsky case, is at the heart of this thoughtful, legally complex study by Rosen, a law professor and editor at the New Republic. Using the Clinton/Lewinsky and Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill affair, along with other case studies, he eloquently addresses why protecting individual privacy matters, what will be lost if we accede to its destruction, how the current state of affairs came to be and what can be done to recapture our lost privacy. Arguing that our collective loss of privacy has corrupted public discourse, the health of our workplaces and the well-being of our most intimate relationships, Rosen presents a strikingly original analysis of the legal, technological and social developments that have converged to justify invasive intrusions into our lives. Specifically, he argues that the archaic conceptual basis for privacy law and the extension of sexual harassment law to include ""hostile workplaces"" (where no explicit sexual advances occur) as a form of sexual discrimination are both blameworthy, and that the Internet is complicit. His critique of ""hostile workplace"" law is sure to stir up controversy. And many observers will think he's gone too far when he suggests, among other things, that what Clinton allegedly did to Paula Jones--exposing himself, making a crude remark--shouldn't be treated, legally, as sexual harassment. But Rosen's text is timely and will shape debate. And to his credit, he forgoes the traditional hand-wringing and offers creative and practical suggestions for a corrective course of action. (June)