Legislating Privacy: Technology, Social Values, and Public Policy

By: Priscilla M. Regan
(June 27, 2002)

Much as privacy has been an almost uniquely American concern, technology offers unique new ways of violating personal privacy. Regan (public affairs, George Mason Univ.) examines congressional policymaking regarding privacy in three areas: information services (computerized databases), wiretapping, and polygraph testing. She has two goals: to explain how policy is formulated and adopted and to examine the reasons why the public often fails to support legislative attempts at protecting privacy.

While other books have been written on specific aspects of privacy, such as Alan Westin’s Privacy and Freedom (LJ 5/1/67) and David O’Brien’s Privacy, Law, and Public Policy (Praeger, 1979), Regan believes that these works fail to identify a concept of privacy upon which legislation can be effectively grounded. She argues that we err when we define privacy by emphasizing the individual’s interests and rights. Regan suggests, instead, that privacy serves common public interests and that recognition of these shared interests would form the basis of stronger public policy. While this is an academic study, developed out of Regan’s doctoral dissertation and her research interests, it is recommended to an educated general audience.?Jerry E. Stephens, U.S. Court of Appeals Lib., Oklahoma City Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.