The information about us being collected on hard drive is turning us into Leibnizian digital monads–strings of predicates of digitized data. Those concerned to protect those strings have claimed that giving access to that string either invades our privacy or denies a property right. These two rights are combined in the American privacy tort of appropriation, and that tort provides a legal history we can appeal to in examining problems that arise regarding these digital strings and a legal and an ethical basis for denying to others rights over those strings, a more substantial basis than we can find by resting claims on either privacy or property alone.
Concerns about protecting the information about each of us that is being collected and collated on hard drives have fastened on either the right to privacy or the right to property. It has been claimed both that giving access to that string invades our privacy and that we each have a property right in our string. These two rights are combined in the American tort of appropriation, one of four privacy torts that has entered American law over the past century, and that tort provides both a legal history we can appeal to in examining problems that arise regarding these digital strings and a legal and, as it turns out, an ethical basis for denying to others rights over those strings. We shall begin with an analysis of Leibniz’s concept of a monad, a string of predicates that conceptually presages the digitization of our lives. We shall then turn in 3 to how much that digitization is creating a new sense of personal identity for us. Before turning to the tort, we shall examine the commodification of our digital selves.