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A typology of privacy

Despite the difficulty of capturing the nature and boundaries of privacy, it is important to conceptualize it. Some scholars develop unitary theories of privacy in the form of a unified conceptual core; others offer classifications of privacy that make meaningful distinctions between different types of privacy. We argue that the latter approach is underdeveloped and in need of improvement. In this paper, we propose a typology of privacy that is more systematic and comprehensive than any existing model.

Our typology is developed, first, by a systematic analysis of constitutional protections of privacy in nine jurisdictions: the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, the Czech Republic, Poland, and Slovenia. This analysis yields a broad overview of the types of privacy that constitutional law seeks to protect. Second, we have studied literature from privacy scholars in the same nine jurisdictions, in order to identify the main dimensions along which privacy can be classified. Our analysis led us to structure types of privacy in a two-dimensional mode, consisting of eight basic types of privacy (bodily, intellectual, spatial, decisional, communicational, associational, proprietary, and behavioral privacy), with an overlay of a ninth type (informational privacy) that overlaps, but does not coincide, with the eight basic types.

Because of the comprehensive and large-scale comparative nature of the analysis, this paper offers a fundamental contribution to the theoretical literature on privacy. Our typology can serve as an analytic and explanatory model that helps to understand what privacy is, why privacy cannot be reduced to informational privacy, how privacy relates to the right to privacy, and how the right to privacy varies, but also corresponds, across a broad range of countries.

Reference: Koops, Bert-Jaap and Newell, Bryce Clayton and Timan, Tjerk and Škorvánek, Ivan and Chokrevski, Tom and Galič, Maša, A Typology of Privacy (March 24, 2016). University of Pennsylvania Journal of International Law, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN:


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