Privacy in the 1990s
It is inevitable that personal privacy will be one of the most significant pressure points in our national fabric for most of the 1990s. Advancing technology, depersonalization of the workplace and other social environments, a growing population...all can be expected to create a greater personal need for a sense of space and dignity.
-- Erwin Chemerinsky1
For very little cost, anybody can learn anything about anybody.
-- R. E. Smith2
Computers and telecommunication networks are at once efficient expediters, sources of storage for vast amounts of information, and bases for significant strategic benefits in commercial enterprise. With these benefits, of course, come some societal issues -- most notably, the effects 28 of these vast amounts of information on institutions and individuals. As with any new technologies, the absorption of computers and telecommunication networks into our societies has created an area of ambiguity -- a space in which there are often no explicit or agreed-upon specific rules with respect to appropriate and inappropriate behaviors.3 The technologies enable new applications, many of which were not feasible or economical before the innovation. With the new applications come significant policy questions at both corporate and public levels.
One of the most important areas for such debate is information privacy -- a condition of limited access to identifiable information about individuals.4 On an almost weekly basis, one can find new examples of the growing concern regarding the collection, use, and protection of personal information in the United States. For example: