Legislating Privacy: Technology, Social Values, and Public Policy

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While technological threats to personal privacy have proliferated rapidly, legislation designed to protect privacy has been slow and incremental. In this study of legislative attempts to reconcile privacy and technology, Priscilla Regan examines congressional policy making in three key areas: computerized databases, wiretapping, and polygraph testing. In each case, she argues, legislation has represented an unbalanced compromise benefiting those with a vested interest in new technology over those advocating privacy protection. Legislating Privacy explores the dynamics of congressional policy formulation and traces the limited response of legislators to the concept of privacy as a fundamental individual right. According to Regan, we will need an expanded understanding of the social value of privacy if we are to achieve greater protection from emerging technologies such as Caller ID and genetic testing. Specifically, she argues that a recognition of the social importance of privacy will shift both the terms of the policy debate and the patterns of interest-group action in future congressional activity on privacy issues. A UNC Press Enduring Edition -- UNC Press Enduring Editions use the latest in digital technology to make available again books from our distinguished backlist that were previously out of print. These editions are published unaltered from the original, and are presented in affordable paperback formats, bringing readers both historical and cultural value.