Book: “Understanding Privacy”

Comic of a person staring into space for ages, briefly frantically typing, and resuming staring into space

I have written a book on privacy for web professionals which will be published very soon by Smashing Magazine. I was hoping to have it done in 2020, but the coronavirus outbreak forced a rethink, as the above cartoon captures in a painfully accurate way.

In the book, I have done my best to explain what I have experienced working on privacy from every angle – human rights, law, policy, and web development – in the simplest way possible, and in the most positive way possible, in ways you can comprehend, use, and adapt in your work on the web right away.

It’s why I’ve called it “Understanding Privacy”: it’s as much about my learning journey as it is about the one you will begin when you read it.

What’s in this book?

The central idea of my book is that your users have a fundamental right to privacy, and that right should should never depend on the presence or the absence of a privacy law.

This is the book that I wish someone had written for me when I was starting my career on the web.

So the book provides an introduction to the universal standards, beliefs, concepts, and fundamental rights which inform privacy as it exists – or has failed to exist – on the web.

In its pages, I explain the universal values of privacy as a concept which precede privacy as a legal compliance issue. I walk you through the ways these concepts impact your work as a designer, a developer, or a project manager.

And I help you understand how you can adopt those values to create a healthy, user-centric approach to privacy in everything you do, regardless of the presence or absence of privacy legislation.

Who is this book for?

This book is aimed at two broad audiences.

The first audience is designers, developers, and project managers already working on the web, either professionally or in side projects.

The second audience is students and future professionals in those fields, whether they are in secondary schools, undergraduate courses, vocational training, or code academies; in fact, I’m hoping the book will be adapted as a textbook.

What those two audiences will have in common is that they will never have received any previous training or education on privacy, either as a concept, a legal issue, or a professional practice, either in their formal education (assuming they had any) or in their workplace.

And I’m also assuming that what they know of privacy has been defined by a lot of legalese and scaremongering, and that like most current or aspiring professionals, this meant their first experience of privacy was being thrown into advanced legal compliance headaches, with no knowledge of the basic concepts or principles that preceded them.

Who isn’t this book for?

The book is not a legal reference, and it’s not for lawyers. The legal stuff is restricted to the bare minimum. Because, remember, privacy isn’t about the law.

It’s not for data protection and privacy professionals. You know all this stuff already, even if (bless your hearts) you’ve never quite figured out how to translate it into the language that web professionals need.

It’s not for policy professionals, although you may glean some very useful insight about future regulation from understanding what professionals have not been taught (contrary to what you might have been assuming all this time).

And it’s not a code manual. Its guidance is agnostic of any programming language. After all, I’m not telling you how to code. I’m telling you how to think about the code.

Where can I get a copy?

I will update this page with news on publication dates and pre-ordering as soon as I’m able. We’re in production and shooting for an early summer 2022 release.

The book will be available as both a gorgeous hard copy and as an e-book, and Smashing have a package which will let you buy both. I recommend that you do; I want this book to be by your side as a reference manual, and I also want it to travel with you as your work progresses.

While you’re waiting for the Smashing elves to roll the printing presses, have a browse at the other books in the Smashing shop. They really are as good as they look.