Rosen, Jeffrey 1964-

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Rosen, Jeffrey 1964-

(Jeffrey Matthew Rosen)

PERSONAL: Born February 13, 1964, in New York, NY; son of Sidney and Estelle Rosen. Education: Harvard University, A.B. (summa cum laude), 1986; Balliol College, Oxford, B.A., 1988; Yale Law School, J.D., 1991.

ADDRESSES: OfficeGeorge Washington University Law School, 2000 H St. NW, Washington, DC 20052. E-mail[email protected].

CAREER: Law clerk to Chief Judge Abner J. Mikva, Washington, DC, 1991–92; New Republic, Washington, DC, legal affairs editor, 1992–; George Washington University Law School, Washington, DC, associate professor, 1996–2003, professor, 2004–; New Yorker, staff writer, 1998–99. Contributor to National Public Radio. Called to the Bar of Pennsylvania and District of Columbia, 1992.

MEMBER: Harvard Club, Cosmos Club, Phi Beta Kappa.

AWARDS, HONORS: Marshall Scholar, 1986–88.


The Unwanted Gaze: The Destruction of Privacy in America, Random House (New York, NY), 2000.

The Naked Crowd: Reclaiming Security and Freedom in an Anxious Age, Random House (New York, NY), 2004.

The Most Democratic Branch: How the Courts Serve America, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2006.

Articles and essays have appeared in numerous legal journals, including Arizona Law Review, Drake Law Review, and Georgetown Law Journal, and in periodicals, including the New York Times, Atlantic Monthly, and the New Yorker. Contributor to books, including Bush v. Gore: The Question of Legitimacy, edited by Bruce Ackerman, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 2002, and A Year at the Supreme Court, edited by Neal Devins and Davison M. Douglas, Duke University Press (Durham, NC), 2004.

SIDELIGHTS: "Today, nothing is private." That, according to Washington Post critic Michael Mello, is the central message of what Mello called a "brilliant and haunting" book by Jeffrey Rosen, The Unwanted Gaze: The Destruction of Privacy in America. A law professor, Rosen explores issues of privacy from the Middle Ages—where the Jewish Talmudic credo against the "unwanted gaze" protected citizens from scrutiny—to the Monica Lewinsky case. The book covers what the author sees as the erosion of legal rights protected under the Fourth Amendment, using examples from government, business, and home life.

A chapter on domestic privacy, for example, points to a court ruling in eighteenth-century England that protected diaries and other personal papers as "dearest property" that could not be admitted as evidence in court. By contrast, when White House intern Lewinsky was under investigation for her affair with President Bill Clinton, Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr extracted never-sent drafts of her love letters to the president from Lewinsky's home computer. He also subpoenaed a bookstore to release receipts from books Lewinsky had purchased.

Indeed, The Unwanted Gaze devotes special attention to the Internet, where virtually anything sent, received, downloaded, or bought can be traced. In many workplaces, employers review employee e-mail and logs from Web surfing; doing so is legal. This alters "the traditional private areas in which we can retreat from the observation and expectation of our employers and colleagues," writes the author. To combat the loss of individual privacy in cyberspace, Rosen recommends using technology itself: encryption, virtual blinders, and a Web site configuration that can "restore in cyberspace the privacy that citizens took for granted in the late eighteenth century."

Just what is considered private? "This is, after all, the age when a Washington, DC, woman broadcasts her life on the Internet from a camera posted in her bedroom," remarked Denver Post columnist Anne Colden. Writes Rosen: "In an age that is beyond embarrassment, it's rarely clear what a 'reasonable person' would find highly offensive."

Then there is the cultural shift in the wake of a changing workplace environment, specifically in the matter of sexual harassment. "In the workplace, in particular, we now all have to watch what we say to each other (verbally and electronically) because of the emergence of the 'hostile environment' test in sexual harassment cases," noted Brian Gilmore in a Christian Science Monitor article. Nevertheless, the good intentions that spurred the change in workplace policy have spawned cures that "turned out to be worse than the ailment," according to Paul Barrett in Washington Monthly.

"Combined with now-common electronic snooping technology, hostile-environment liability has become, according to [Rosen's] argument, the greatest threat to privacy facing workers." The author, noted America columnist Robert Drinan, "is especially critical of laws that penalize free speech or conduct that creates a hostile environment. Rosen urges, on the contrary, that changing these offenses into violations that endanger privacy would accomplish the same result while protecting women and others from a serious invasion of their privacy."

Reaction to The Unwanted Gaze was generally positive, with Mello praising the author for his ability to explore complex legal cases "with a grace and elegance that lawyers and non-lawyers should admire. Legal cases are stories, and Rosen is a wonderful storyteller." Commentary writer Dan Seligman cast a critical eye on some of the author's methods of presentation, however, calling Rosen's arguments based on "asseverations and anecdotes." In a similar viewpoint, Barrett found that Rosen "sometimes seems to choose examples more for their celebrity dazzle than their actual value in illustrating general assertions. But overall, there is much to learn and debate in this lively book."

In his next book, The Naked Crowd: Reclaiming Security and Freedom in an Anxious Age, Rosen delves into the post-9/11 era and the ensuing demand for broader surveillance technology. The author describes many of the new technologies, such as a face scanner that can pick specific people out of a crowd or another scanner that reveals a person in a complete state of nudity. While many embrace the new technology or think little about it, Rosen warns that a serious and balanced approach must be taken to ensure that these new technologies do not erode privacy laws and become readily accepted by the public. World and I contributor Philip Gold commented that "Rosen makes several valid points. One is that, while there must inevitably be trade-offs between security and liberty in the age now upon us, how we effect the trade-offs matters greatly." Stephen Pomper, writing in Washington Monthly, noted that "Rosen lays out the threats that inadequately restrained surveillance can pose, even to those who have nothing much to hide." Pomper went on to note that the author "tells a convincing story about the world we live in, and a cautionary one of the world we may be entering. It is all the more laudable for doing so in a steady, nuanced voice that one hopes will rise above the noise of the crowd." In a review in Commentary, Jonathan Kay wrote: "As an overview of the newest threats to privacy in America, The Naked Crowd is a fine book."



Rosen, Jeffrey, The Unwanted Gaze: The Destruction of Privacy in America, Random House (New York, NY), 2000.


America, December 23, 2000, Robert Drinan, "For All the World to See," p. 20.

Booklist, May 1, 2000, Frank Caso, review of The Unwanted Gaze, p. 1632.

Christian Science Monitor, June 15, 2000, Brian Gilmore, "The Struggle to Be Left Alone," p. 17.

Commentary, July, 2000, Dan Seligman, review of The Unwanted Gaze, p. 69; January, 2004, Jonathan Kay, review of The Naked Crowd: Reclaiming Security and Freedom in an Anxious Age, p. 67.

Denver Post, July 18, 2000, Anne Colden, "Law Professor Decries 'Destruction of Privacy,'" p. C1.

Fortune, July 24, 2000, Stephen Solomon, "When Private Information Becomes a Commodity," p. 378.

Grand Rapids Press (Grand Rapids, MI), August 6, 2000, Mike McCarty, "Author Laments Loss of Privacy," p. J7.

Houston Chronicle, July 30, 2000, David Abel, "Lewinsky as Victim of Privacy War," p. 15.

Los Angeles Times, July 14, 2000, Anthony Day, review of The Unwanted Gaze, p. E3.

Publishers Weekly, May 15, 2000, review of The Unwanted Gaze, p. 98.

Reason, June, 2004, Julian Sanchez, review of The Naked Crowd, p. 15.

Star-Ledger (Newark, NJ), July 16, 2000, Bruce Rosen, "Casting a Critical Eye on the Erosion of Privacy," p. 5.

Washington Monthly, June, 2000, Paul Barrett, review of The Unwanted Gaze, p. 47; January-February, 2004, Stephen Pomper, review of The Naked Crowd, p. 48.

Washington Post, July 16, 2000, Michael Mello, "Nowhere to Hide," p. X8.

World and I, August, 2004, Philip Gold, review of The Naked Crowd.


George Washington University Web site, (February 27, 2006), brief faculty profile of Rosen.