Book: “Understanding Privacy”

This page will tell you about the book itself. For a deeper dive, I've written a few blog posts about the book's bumpy creation and afterlife. You can view them here.

It's a book!

I have written a book on privacy for web professionals, published by Smashing Magazine, which was released in October and December 2022. You can purchase the book as an ebook only, which is immediately delivered to you in DRM-free .pdf, .mobi, and .epub versions, or as both the ebook and a beautiful printed hard copy, which will follow in the post from Smashing HQ in Germany.

You can buy the book from:

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.

Credits and Thank Yous

The acknowledgements page of the book was my favourite one to write. Outside of that:

This book has been a team effort, and I could not be more grateful to

  • Vitaly Friedman for making it happen;
  • Ari Stiles for turning my draft into An Actual Book;
  • Cosima Mielke for making it an ebook;
  • Espen Brunborg for his amazing illustrations, and
  • Owen Gregory for his superb editing.

I wrote the book in Scrivener. I do not understand how anybody writes a book without it. What do you people do? Carve marks with sticks into clay?

Many thanks go to Robin Berjon, Natasha Lomas, and Mike Little for the back cover quotes. Imagine the four of us at a table!

Thanks also go to Morten Rand-Hendriksen for keeping me (vaguely) sane throughout a maddening writing process.

Most of all, thanks go to Tom Nowell for being my happy place.

The Soundtrack

Here are the tunes referenced in the book, whether you spot them or not. These songs accomplished my privacy journey from high school onwards.

When you’re done with it, choose Spotify’s “Go to Playlist Radio” option for a deeper dive into my impeccable taste.