“Privacy”: A Unique Play Starring Your Smart Phone

Daniel Solove
Founder of TeachPrivacy

Privacy Awareness

I was fortunate to see James Graham’s incisive play “Privacy” this past Sunday at the Public Theater in New York City.  The play is a witty and immensely engaging examination of all the data being collected about us and being assembled into digital dossiers.  Technology is adeptly woven into the play.  At many points during the production, audience members are asked to use their smart phones.  The script is entertaining and intelligent.  There is never a dull moment, and I was laughing throughout. 

Privacy awareness

What made the experience especially exciting was that I was a character depicted in the play.  Played by Reg Rogers, I appear in an Uber instructing the protagonist (played by Daniel Radcliffe) about the implications of how little privacy he has.  Other academics and real individuals are also depicted as characters.  As a very positive New York Times review noted, “On hand to edify [Radcliffe’s character] are a host of fantasy versions of real people who embody different sides of the argument on public versus private selves. Such academic cultural commentators as Sherry Turkle, Jill Lepore and Daniel Solove are introduced to debate the pros and cons of virtual communality.”

Privacy awareness

I must admit that I was intrigued but somewhat skeptical when playwright James Graham first contacted me and told me about his play, one that would focus more on issues of privacy than on a particular story, and one that would include depictions of figures like me to weave in ideas.  How would this work?  How could these things be synthesized into a play that would really resonate?  Would this be more of an academic article than a play?

Graham pulled it off.  The play had me engaged throughout.  It worked extremely well, bringing the issues to life with humor and zest.  Even though I’m quite familiar with privacy issues, I found it fascinating and edifying how adroitly the play introduced the issues and made them engaging.  Maybe I should turn my information privacy law class into a play . . .

The cast did a superb job.  As expected, Rachel Dratch was extremely funny, but I didn’t know that Radcliffe had such great comic timing.  He really is good with comedy.  Everyone was talented, and it was evident that the cast really was enjoying the material.

Afterwards, the cast and playwright were so kind to meet with me, my wife, and our friend.  I suggested to Rogers that he might shave his head to look more like me . . . a suggestion that had him immediately racing out to a barbershop.

It was a fun and somewhat surreal experience to be depicted in a play, and I’m honored to have been included.  Kudos to Graham and this talented cast for creating a truly enjoyable and interesting exploration of privacy.  The play ran in London and currently runs for a few more weeks in New York City.  I hope it will travel to other cities, such as Washington, DC and others.  Be on the lookout for it, as it is definitely worth seeing.  And don’t forget to bring your phone.

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This post was authored by Professor Daniel J. Solove, who through TeachPrivacy develops computer-based privacy training, data security training, HIPAA training, and many other forms of awareness training on privacy and security topics.  This post was originally posted on his blog at LinkedIn, where Solove is a “LinkedIn Influencer.” His blog has more than 950,000 followers.

Privacy+Security ForumProfessor Solove is the organizer, along with Paul Schwartz of the Privacy + Security Forum (Oct. 24-26, 2016 in Washington, DC), an annual event that aims to bridge the silos between privacy and security. 

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