Georgia Law Review, Vol. 12, No. 3 (Spring 1978), pp. 393-422

Abstract

This Article is the text of the John A. Sibley Lecture delivered on March 2, 1978, at the University of Georgia School of Law, and is part of a collaborative project with George J. Stigler on the law and economics of privacy. The present Article attempts an economic analysis of the dissemination and withholding of information primarily in personal rather than business contexts. It is thus concerned with such matters as prying, eavesdropping, "self-advertising," and gossip. The line between personal and commercial is not always clear or useful, and I shall not maintain it unwaveringly; the emphasis, however, is on the personal. The first part of the Article develops the economic analysis. I remark in passing the irony that personal privacy seems to be valued more highly than organizational privacy, judging by current public policy trends, although a reverse ordering would be more consistent with the economics of the problem. The second part of the Article examines the principles of tort law that protect a "right of privacy" in both commercial and personal contexts (the former is discussed only briefly, however) and concludes that the judges in tort cases have been sensitive to the economics of privacy.

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