Advanced Technology: Privacy Protection And Intrusions
Alan F. Westin's Privacy and Freedom (1967), a comprehensive work whose descriptions of privacy states and functions are cited and elaborated upon by most subsequent writers on privacy, was prompted by concern about new technologies for invading privacy in the hands of government and commercial agencies. As professor of public law and government at Columbia University, Westin occupied an influential position from which to propose changes in U.S. law. Calling for greater protection to the ordinary citizen, Westin pointed out that the tradition of limiting the surveillance powers of the authorities over the private activities of individuals and groups goes back to ancient Greece. He then dedicated over a decade's research to collecting data and investigating attitudes towards privacy in the United States.
In Databanks in a Free Society (1972), one of the first books linking data collection with privacy, Westin and his co-author Michael A. Baker found that the scope of information collection about individuals had not yet significantly expanded as a direct result of computerization, but a National Science Foundation conference in 1979 in which Westin was a key speaker concluded that this was no longer the case. A Harris survey directed by Westin in 1979 on attitudes towards privacy in the United States, which addressed the potential abuse or misuse of personal information by business or government, identified growing public concern about the perceived erosion of privacy in the early 1970s in the United States.
Inspired by Westin's advocacy to make the issue of data protection and privacy his life's work, David H. Flaherty produced two pioneering surveys, Privacy and Data Protection: An International Bibliography (1984) and Protecting Privacy in Surveillance Societies: The Federal Republic of Germany, Sweden, France, Canada, and the United States (1989). The former lists 1,862 Western-language works (books, articles, and government reports) published between 1978 and 1983 concerning Canada, the Federal Republic of Germany, France, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the rest of the world. An impressive number of U.S. works on threats to information privacy followed, including Managing Privacy: Information Technology and Corporate America (1994) by H. Jeff Smith, Privacy and Its Invasion (1995) by Deckle McClean, The Culture of Surveillance (1997) by William G. Staples, Technology and Privacy: The New Landscape (1997) edited by Philip E. Agre and Marc Rotenberg, and The Electronic Privacy Papers (1998) edited by Bruce Schneier and David Baniser. Most of these works regarded surveillance and data collection as necessary evils in modern life against which the citizen should be warned and equipped with appropriate measures, including individual acts of resistance as well as pressure on corporate and stage agencies.
The most aggressive defense of privacy against intrusion from government and corporate interests was Gini Graham Scott's Mind Your Own Business: The Battle for Personal Privacy (1995). It contains detailed accounts of privacy cases in the United States since the 1960s, relating to employment, police surveillance, media intrusion, medical and health issues, and medical and insurance records. Scott is unequivocally opposed to court decisions that favor employers, the media, schools, the law courts, and the police. He alerts readers to grounds on which privacy may or may not be protected in law, provides an appendix listing computer privacy bulletin boards, and gives his own address for further communication.
Compared to the United States, pressure groups in the United Kingdom were slow to react to privacy intrusions. Although one of the first works on the subject, Private Lives and Public Surveillance (1973) by James B. Rule, warned of the consequences, public safety concerns permitted the proliferation of surveillance technology, so that by the end of the twentieth century more closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras were installed in shops and public places in the United Kingdom than anywhere else in the world. A guide to the new Data Protection Act of 1984 by Richard Sizer and Philip Newman noted that the act does not mention privacy as an issue, and that privacy was not a legal right under English law. Attempts to incorporate a bill of rights, including privacy rights, into law in the 1980s and 1990s were rebuffed with claims that English common law afforded greater protection. However, works such as The Governance of Privacy: Policy Instruments in Global Perspective (2002) by Colin J. Bennett and Charles D. Raab show that by the beginning of the twenty-first century the mood had changed dramatically in the United Kingdom as well as in countries throughout the world.
New privacy issues arose in the 1990s with the adoption of DNA technology in preventive and forensic medicine. Mark A. Rothstein's Genetic Secrets: Protecting Privacy and Confidentiality in the Genetic Era (1997) and Graham Laurie's Genetic Privacy: A Challenge to Medico-Legal Norms (2002) are ground-breaking investigations on matters such as the disposal of body parts by hospitals for medical research and the status of the right to know—or not to know—one's individual medical records by the person concerned, by their families, by insurance companies, or by other interested agencies. Public outrage at intrusions into genetic privacy in the United States and United Kingdom demonstrates its close relation to questions of personal identity and the body, an area distinctly more emotional than intrusions via databases, surveillance devices, and Internet tracking. It is hardly surprising that the last three decades before the turn of the twenty-first century saw an unprecedented level of scrutiny of the nature, value, and functions of privacy.
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