Privacy in a Digital World

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Privacy in a Digital World

The history of privacy in the United States is a storied one. The context of the 4


Amendment to the Constitution has been debated for years to determine if the “right to

privacy” is a constitutionally guaranteed right. Additionally, many people are

technologically ignorant of what behaviors and activities will put them at risk.

The “Carnivore” is a good example of an historic digital technology that

generated privacy concerns. The Carnivore was a digital intelligence gathering tool that

was supposed to be used by the FBI to fight crime. People’s concerns about the tool

were so vocal, however, it was never used.

Currently, there are specific laws governing the protection of digital privacy. In

some cases, these laws protect the individual, and in others, they protect the

corporation or government entity intending to use digitally collected data to their

advantage. The Electronic Communication Privacy Act of 1986 and the Freedom of

Information Act of 1966 both address some privacy concerns.

One way digital privacy is compromised every day is the use of social or

professional networking sites. MySpace, Facebook, and other sites provide increased

access to people’s personal lives and information.


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The advent of electronic mail has also brought additional concerns to the

forefront. Do employees have the right to privacy in their work-related electronic mail?

And is electronic mail used by governmental agencies to be considered part of the

public record?

The future of digital privacy is extremely uncertain. While corporations and

government entities continue to try and compromise individual privacy, many people are

still unaware of the risks inherent in using digital me...

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...d Garson, 271-298. Hershey:

Idea Group Publishing, 2003.


“Spying on the Homefront,” Frontline, PBS (Boston: WGBH Educational Foundation), (accessed September

28, 2007).

”The Patriot Act.” Jurisprudence: The Law, Lawyers, and the Court. Washington DC:

Slate, Washington Post/Newsweek Interactive, 2003. (accessed September 28, 2007).

Tyson, Jeff. “How Carnivore Worked.” How Stuff Works. Atlanta:,

1998.2007. (accessed

1998.2008. September 28, 2007).

United States Department of Justice,

Waldo, James, Lin, Herbert S., Millett, Lynette I, eds. Engaging Privacy and Information

Technology in a Digital Age. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press,


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