What, Me Worry? The Multi-Front Assault on Privacy
St. Louis University Public Law Review, Vol. 25, No. 33, 2006
29 Pages Posted: 20 May 2009
Date Written: 2006
Americans are concerned about their privacy. However, there is no clear or comprehensive vision of how to express the concern for privacy. There is no consensus about a single definition that captures all of privacy's ambit. This article does not proffer a definition, but follows the example of Alan Westin and suggests that we should look to the functions that privacy performs as the best way to understand privacy and how we should devise means to protect it from encroachments. This article describes some of the challenges that face privacy in our technology rich society, using the four “basic states of individual privacy” articulated by Westin.
Westin's four basic states are: solitude, intimacy, anonymity, and reserve. With solitude, “the individual is separated from the group and freed from the observation of other persons.” With intimacy, the person is a member of “a small unit that claims and is allowed to exercise corporate seclusion so that it may achieve a close, relaxed, and frank relationship.” The traditional husband-wife relationship is a clear instance, but work cliques also qualify. With anonymity, “the individual is in public places or performing public acts but still seeks, and finds, freedom from identification and surveillance.” Lastly, reserve is “the creation of a psychological barrier against unwanted intrusion.” Reserve is the most elusive of the four states, however, despite the difficulty of specifying a definition, it is an important part of our functional expectations for privacy.
Keywords: privacy, technology, information
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