Why privacy keeps dying: the trouble with talk about the end of privacy

Nicholas A. John*, Benjamin Peters

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


It is a curious fact how much talk about privacy is about the end of privacy. We term this ‘privacy endism,’ locating the phenomenon within a broader category of endist thought. We then analyze 101 newspaper articles between 1990 and 2012 that declare the end of privacy. Three findings follow. First, claims about the end of privacy point to an unusually broad range of technological and institutional causes. Privacy has been pronounced defunct for decades, but there has never been a near consensus about its causes. Second, unlike other endist talk (the end of art or history, etc.), privacy endism appears ongoing and not period specific. Finally, our explanation of the persistence and idiosyncrasy of claims to the end of privacy focuses on Warren and Brandeis’s 1890 negative conception of privacy as ‘the right to be let alone’: namely, modern privacy talk has always been endist because the right to privacy was born out of the conditions for its violation, not its realization. The conclusion comments on implications of that basic proposition.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)284-298
Number of pages15
JournalInformation Communication and Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Privacy
  • discourse
  • endism
  • press
  • rights


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