In their seminal 1890 article, The Right to Privacy, Samuel Warren and Louis Brandeis observed: 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 what Judge Cooley calls the right “to be left alone.” Instantaneous photographs and newspaper enterprise have invaded the sacred precincts of private and domestic life; and numerous mechanical devices threaten to make good the prediction that “what is whispered in the closet shall be proclaimed from the housetops.” What is remarkable about this comment is that it could be applied with equal force to today’s world. Although the technologies are different—instant photographs and sensational tabloids have been replaced by Google Glass and tracking technologies—the impulse to “to be let alone” and the fear that “what is whispered in the closet shall be proclaimed from the housetops” remains relevant to today’s privacy concerns. In fact, perhaps the only constant in the modern era has been almost breathless sense of change, a sense that new and unpredictable developments are just around the corner, and that today’s way of dealing with things may not be up to tomorrow’s task. Nowhere is this more evidence than in the area of information and privacy, where technological changes have facilitated an exponential increase in our ability to communicate and to know. According to Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google, approximately five exabytes of information were created between the dawn of civilization and the year 2003. Today, the same amount of information is created in less that two days. Most of this data, according to Schmidt, is user generated—Facebook pages, text messages, blogs, etc. As our social relations are increasingly recorded and collected, the risk that information that we think we are “whispering in the closet” is in fact being “proclaimed from the rooftops” have only increased.
Peter J. Guffin, Kyle J. Glover & Sara M. Benjamin,
Me. L. Rev.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.mainelaw.maine.edu/mlr/vol66/iss2/2