Privacy Essay, Research Paper
Privacy in the Information Age: I N T R O D U C T I O N ———————————————————————— The world is changing rapidly. There used to be a time when we could be confident that no one could learn too much about our personal lives. There used to be a time when information was merely a way of keeping records. That time is gone and with it went a large amount of what we might call our personal privacy. Information about our personal lives has now become one of the most valued resources on the market today. The explosion of the computer and communications industries has created a system that can store vast amounts of data on an individual and transmit that information almost anywhere in a negligible amount of time. More and more people are gaining access to this information and the government has been too slow to react to the changes. As a result, employers, insurance agencies, law enforcement officers, and researchers are all lobbying for legislation that would establish clear rules for the access to this information. Each of these groups stand to gain enormous benefits from legitimizing access to a broad base of personal information. This information will be organized into vast databases that will be maintained by the government, credit report agencies, the health care industry, and employers. The system will come to contain information on virtually every aspect of our lives, the data will be quickly and efficiently transferred around the globe via the arising Global Information Infrastructure, and paper records sitting in file cabinets will become a thing of the past. However, considering current trends, what may be missed the most from the old system are the locks on those old, rusted file cabinets. This new system allows for a lot of access to previously confidential files and we are already seeing the negative effects that this system has produced. For example, employers and insurance companies have begun to discriminate against individuals based on samplings of a person?s or fetus?s DNA. As genetic testing and the human genome project advance, there will be an even greater opportunity for discrimination based on characteristics or conditions that may, or may not, arise in an individual’s future. To provide a background to the discussion, this report will establish who has access to what information today. We will also focus on the current debate over Congressional legislation concerning rules that would govern access. At each key point in the discussion significant problems and concerns will be highlighted. The resolution of these issues will be discussed in a look at privacy concerns as a whole in the third section. This third section will analyze what changes must occur, possible solutions to various privacy problems, and the goals that our society hopes to reach.