Friday, May 25, 2007

Engaging Privacy and Information Technology in a Digital Age

This book, now available for pre-order from the National Academies Press, is the result of a multi-year study committee on Privacy in the Information Age, sponsored by the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board (CSTB) of the National Research Council (NRC), of which I was a member.

Privacy is a growing concern in the United States and around the world. The spread of the Internet and the seemingly boundaryless options for collecting, saving, sharing, and comparing information trigger consumer worries. Online practices of business and government agencies may present new ways to compromise privacy, and e-commerce and technologies that make a wide range of personal information available to anyone with a Web browser only begin to hint at the possibilities for inappropriate or unwarranted intrusion into our personal lives. Engaging Privacy and Information Technology in a Digital Age presents a comprehensive and multidisciplinary examination of privacy in the information age. It explores such important concepts as how the threats to privacy evolving, how can privacy be protected and how society can balance the interests of individuals, businesses and government in ways that promote privacy reasonably and effectively? This book seeks to raise awareness of the web of connectedness among the actions one takes and the privacy policies that are enacted, and provides a variety of tools and concepts with which debates over privacy can be more fruitfully engaged. Engaging Privacy and Information Technology in a Digital Age focuses on three major components affecting notions, perceptions, and expectations of privacy: technological change, societal shifts, and circumstantial discontinuities. This book will be of special interest to anyone interested in understanding why privacy issues are often so intractable.
The full draft text is available free online, and will be replaced with the final version when it is published.

Much credit is due to the editors, Jim Waldo, Herb Lin, and Lynnette Millett for imposing a substantial amount of coherence to disparate contributions from one of the most diverse committees I have ever served on. (I think that both the lawyers and the philosophers outnumbered the three "computerists" on the committee--it was a very broadening experience.)

I must confess that I am now much less confident that much privacy can be salvaged than I was when the study was started.

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