Privacy Advocate

UVA law professor Danielle Keats Citron says digital privacy is a civil right. 

As technology winds its way into our lives, our privacy is up for grabs, says Danielle Keats Citron, a MacArthur Fellow and distinguished professor of law at the University of Virginia (UVA). 

Citron insists that intimate privacy—concerning our health data, phone images, relationship details, even thoughts—should be recognized as a civil right. “Once we understand that, it flips the equation,” she told a UVA Law audience. “You need a really good reason to violate a civil right.” 

Citron draws on 60 in-depth interviews with privacy activists and victims in her book, The Fight for Privacy: Protecting Dignity, Identity, and Love in the Digital Age (W.W. Norton, Oct. 2022). One woman’s life was upended by a hotel room spy camera planted by a “sextortionist,” who demanded money before sharing the video online.“There are 9,500 websites whose raison d’être is intimate image abuse,” says Citron. “This is their business.” 

Citron has advised TikTok, Bumble, Spotify, and Twitter, and says tech companies must be “much more thoughtful” about the tools they design. Her global work has paid off: In South Korea, legislators have criminalized digital sex crimes, sextortion, and spy camera misuse. 

Virginia is among five U.S. states to enact digital privacy laws. But in Washington, despite bipartisan support, the House has yet to pass the Americans in Support of Data Protections Privacy Act.  

Citron believes that, collectively, we can reclaim what is rightfully ours, and adds that, “education coupled with technological solutions can ensure that intimate privacy becomes our default position.”

This article originally appeared in the June 2023 issue.

Konstantin Rega
A graduate of East Anglia’s renowned Creative Writing MA, Konstantin’s been published by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Poetry Salzburg Review,, the Republic of Consciousness Prize (etc.). He contributes to Publisher Weekly and Treblezine.
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