Washington Law Review


James P. Nehf


Much has been written about database privacy in the Internet Age, most of it critical of the way in which the American legal system addresses the issue. In this article, Professor Nehf maintains that one of the fundamental difficulties with the public policy debates is that information privacy is often discussed as a typical consumer problem rather than a problem of more general societal concern. As a result, arguments over appropriate resolutions reduce to a balancing of individual rights against more general societal interests, such as increased efficiency in law enforcement, government operations or commercial enterprise. Although privacy scholars discussed the "societal value" of information privacy in the 1960s and early 1970s, the concept was not fully developed. More recently, political theorists have revived the idea and argue the importance of recognizing privacy as a societal norm. Professor Nehf adopts a functional analysis that compares information privacy to other societal values, such as environmental protection, and concludes that privacy policy could take a different form if the issue were viewed in this way.

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