Patchwork of Privacy Regulations

By | March 10, 2006

Absolute privacy has never truly existed. Before the industrial revolution, mankind largely inhabited small villages where everyone knew everything about everyone else. The desire to remain isolated, or to maintain privacy regarding details of health and welfare, would have been regarded suspiciously.

With the onset of the industrial revolution and large cities, the concepts of anonymity and privacy took root. These philosophical concepts were born during this time-when governmental structures did not have the means to collect and maintain personal information on a consistent basis. In fact, individuals came to expect privacy as a right. Interestingly, the period where humans experienced the greatest privacy was during these early years of the industrial revolution.

Today´s construct of anonymity and privacy is more in line with that of the pre-industrial age—where the introduction of radio, television and the computer has turned the world into a “global village.” Attainment of anonymity is virtually impossible. Privacy-though still expected as a right-has gradually eroded in a world where information has become a commodity, and that commodity can be collected, processed, stored and retrieved at speeds unimaginable 50 years ago.

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