The Digital Person: Technology and Privacy in the Information Age

By Daniel J. Solove | Go to book overview

2
The Rise of
the Digital Dossier

We currently live in a world where extensive dossiers exist about each one of us. These dossiers are in digital format, stored in massive computer databases by a host of government agencies and private-sector companies. The problems caused by these developments are profound. But to understand the problems, we must first understand how they arose.


A History of Public-Sector Databases

Although personal records have been kept for centuries,1 only in contemporary times has the practice become a serious concern. Prior to the nineteenth century, few public records were collected, and most of them were kept at a very local level, often by institutions associated with churches.2 The federal government's early endeavors at collecting data consisted mainly in conducting the census. The first census in 1790 asked only four questions.3 With each proceeding census, the government gathered more personal information. By i860,142 questions were asked.4 When the 1890 census included questions about diseases, disabilities, and finances, it sparked a public outcry, ultimately leading to the passage in the early twentieth century of stricter laws protecting the confidentiality of census data.5

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The Digital Person: Technology and Privacy in the Information Age
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • 1: Introduction 1
  • I - Computer Databases 11
  • 2: The Rise of the Digital Dossier 13
  • 3: Kafka and Orwell 27
  • 4: The Problems of Information Privacy Law 56
  • 5: The Limits of Market-Based Solutions 76
  • 6: Architecture and the Protection of Privacy 93
  • II - Public Records 125
  • 7: The Problem of Public Records 127
  • 8: Access and Aggregation Rethinking Privacy and Transparency 140
  • III - Government Access 163
  • 9: Government Information Gathering 165
  • 10: The Fourth Amendment, Records, and Privacy 188
  • 11: Reconstructing the Architecture 210
  • 12: Conclusion 223
  • Notes 229
  • Index 267
  • About the Author 283
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