An Overview of Privacy and the Digital State
Information privacy — the ability to control information about oneself — is one of the defining concerns of the American public at the beginning of the 21st Century. The most publicized debate over privacy has concerned the collection and use of consumer information by commercial web site operators. This book focuses instead on the government’s role in collecting personal information and protecting citizen privacy. Privacy and the Digital State addresses the proper balance between access to public records maintained by government agencies and the privacy interests of the individuals whose personal information appears in those records. Unlike the information obtained by private companies on the Internet, government agencies typically have the legal or practical power to compel individuals to supply information in exchange for driver’s licenses, benefits, or permits, and during the course of real estate transactions, legal proceedings, and other processes. The ability to compe1 citizens to produce information, together with the government’s special obligation to open its records to the public, means that the rules that apply to the private sector are not adequate or appropriate for the public sector.
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