Privacy and Liberty

in the Computer Age

Golden Key Online Privacy Campaign Ring of Freedom Blue Ribbon Internet Freedom of Speech Campaign

Introduction

If you're reading this with a Web browser, you already have some inkling of the dramatic effects, positive and negative, that the Net is having on communication, property, and legal jurisdiction. I'd like to discuss some of these issues, suggest my own interpretation of them, and point you towards further reading on the subject.

Informational goods and physical goods

Censorship and the Communications Decency Act

Government Surveillance and ECHELON

September 11, the USA PATRIOT Act, TIPS, and TIA

The ACLU's Student Rights page

(covering such issues as discrimination, dress codes, drug testing, freedom of expression, privacy, religion, sexuality, and recent changes to student privacy laws related to terrorism and foreign students)

Summary

The shift to informational goods, and the means to easily copy, encode, and transmit them without regard to geography, has enormous potential both for good and for evil. Many politicians and bureaucrats, more frightened of the evil than intrigued by the good, and justifiably afraid of what they do not understand, have reacted in ways those of us who live on the Net may find silly and paranoid. Others, who understand perfectly well, have taken advantage of public fear about terrorism to expand their reach into the lives of innocent people. The result may be laws and policies that discourage even legitimate use of this wonderful resource. "If privacy is outlawed, only outlaws will have privacy."

Related Links

Advocacy Groups

Numerous advocacy groups have formed to address these tricky public policy issues, and I've listed some below. Warning: this section may lead you to read material critical of various individuals and agencies of the U.S. and other governments. Most of the pages I've found from here seem to present information in a complete and unbiased manner (e.g. the full texts of legal briefs and Acts of Congress, with all the whereases and resolveds), and to separate that information from their own opinions thereon, but remember that these are advocacy groups. Don't act on any of this material, or any politically-tinged message you read on the Net, until you've convinced yourself of its accuracy and considered its arguments critically.


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Last modified: Tue Jan 28 12:15:03 EST 2003
Stephen Bloch / sbloch@adelphi.edu
My PGP key is available by finger.