Thinking About Privacy

Just as recent centuries saw transitions from the agricultural to the industrial to the information age and associated societal and technological changes, the early 21st century will continue to pose dynamic challenges in many aspects of society. Most importantly from the standpoint of this report, advances in information technology are proceeding apace. In this rapidly changing technological context, individuals, institutions, and governments will be forced to reexamine core values, beliefs, laws, and social structures if their understandings of autonomy, privacy, justice, community, and democracy are to continue to have meaning. A central concept throughout U.S. history has been the notion of privacy and the creation of appropriate borders between the individual and the state. In the latter 19th century, as industrial urban society saw the rise of large bureaucratic organizations, notions of privacy were extended to the borders between private organizations and the individual. This report focuses on privacy and its intersections with information technology and associated social and technology trends.


One of the most discussed and worried-about aspects of today’s information age is the subject of privacy. Based on a number of other efforts directed toward analyzing trends and impacts of information technology (including the evolution of the Internet, a variety of information security issues, and public-private tensions regarding uses of information and

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