Recent inventions and business methods call attention to the next step which must be taken for the protection of the person, and for securing to the individual … the right ‘to be let alone.’ ”
When Samuel Warren and Louis Brandeis wrote that in 1890 in a Harvard Law Review article called “The Right to Privacy,” the nation was at the dawn of a technology revolution. Photography and a rambunctious press had shrunk people’s zones of privacy. Soon, the telephone and the radio would draw the walls closer. Next came television. In exchange for intimacy, people had to rethink what it meant to be let alone.
The world is experiencing another technology revolution. The Internet, microchips and the Global Positioning System make this a faster, closer—but more jittery—world. What is the “next step” in the right to be let alone? The law is catching up, but many say too slowly. They fear the concerns of another writer: “You had to live—did live, from habit that became instinct—in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and … every movement scrutinized.” The author: George Orwell. The book: 1984.