Article   |   Volume 167, Issue 4

The Privacy Interest in Property

By
167 U. Pa. L. Rev. 869 (2019)

March 2019












Once upon a time, there existed a clear nexus between property and privacy. Protection of property rights was an important safeguard against intrusions of the privacy interests of owners both by the government and by private actors. Gradually, however, the symbiotic relationship between privacy and property has been forgotten by scholars and policymakers and fallen into oblivion.

In this Article, we seek to restore the centrality of privacy in property law by making two novel contributions—one descriptive and one normative. Descriptively, we show that concerns for privacy inform, at times implicitly, many important property doctrines. Indeed, we show that privacy provides an indispensable compass for understanding and uniting diverse and seemingly unrelated property rules. Second, we propose how privacy concerns can be better and more explicitly incorporated into property law and policy. We show that attention to privacy can reinvigorate scholarly thinking about property and lead to new solutions to longstanding problems.

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