Is privacy a right?

Essay by milk February 2005

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This is the Information Age, the age of gathering information. People are introduced to all types of information from print and broadcast media, and they themselves are the object of information collected on an increasing scale. Computers have be come so entrenched in people's lives that they have come to take computers for granted, and usually stop to complain on occasions when these machines fail them. Computers collect our paychecks, pay our bills, dispense our cash, send our orders, and save our data. While computers may only contain bits and pieces of our personal information, collectively computers know us better than many of our friends and relatives. The use of the information highway by marketing firms, law enforcement agencies, the me dia, financial and educational institutions to collect and compile personal information is making may consumer advocates and privacy experts uneasy. However, many Americans, even though concerned about privacy invasions, simply accept the loss of their p rivacy as a consequency of the Information Age and are not willing to give up the benefits and conveniences which information technology has provided them (Long 19).

British novelist, George Orwell, may have been accurate in his novel, 1984, envisioning a future where citizens are constantly monitored, but he never imagined how or to what degree this would be done. Today, a citizen's personal informatio n is everywhere: processed, manipulated, stored, and sold. In the last 10 years, data collection has escalated (Mossberg B1). There is nothing that doesn't create a pool of data that can be used in creative ways. Computers can collect personal data t o find patterns that reveal a citizen's habits, preferences, and personality. What is particularly surprising is the extent in current years to which this personal data about citizens can be obtained and made available to many...