Privacy edited by Roman Espejo. 235 p. Farmington Hills: Greenhaven, 2011. 978-0-7377-4984-7
This volume in the Opposing Viewpoints series feature 22 essays in four chapters centered around four areas: counter-terrorism efforts and their effects on individual liberties, technological innovations that threaten privacy, medical privacy in the contexts of law enforcement and student drug testing, and policy decisions at corporate and institutional levels related to tracking individual behaviors.
The essays deal with up-to-the minute concerns, all contextualized within the voluntary erosion of personal privacy at least partially engendered by social networking and business models increasingly based on monetizing our personal information. The text reinforces the new norms with regard to privacy in an era where technology has eaten away at expectations for privacy, and public video surveillance and the permeability of electronic passports make it easy to track individual movements.
The counter-terrorism chapter juxtaposes the sense of a need for protections for Americans in a post- 9/11 world with the rights of those traveling in and out of the country, especially with regard to electronic data transported on hardware. There is a dialogue on the national identity card argument and a discussion about whether the Patriot Act violates an individual’s political activities of expression or whether it upholds precedent from the earliest days of the republic. The volume also dips into medical privacy, exploring the potential for abuse of DNA databases developed by law enforcement.
At institutional levels, the volume addresses the rights of military recruiters to access student information, the tracking online of consumer behaviors by persistent browser-based technologies, and the workplace monitoring of employees’ activities. Some issues are particularly provocative because of the number of intersecting issues. Access to hardware by customs agents, whose investigation may involve copying digital information, including sensitive corporate data, is given particular scrutiny, raising the issue of proving volitional knowledge of all digital information in one’s possession as a traveler.
Sources for the chapters range from the popular press to congressional testimony, with two unsigned articles. There is some portrayal of civil libertarians as extremist within a context of war, and discussion of whether wartime merits the use of “sneak and peek” warrants, which grant blanket access without naming individual suspects.
Each chapter is introduced with a summary and questions to focus reading, and the credentials of the writers are explained, as well as the original publication context. Potentially unfamiliar terms (for example “Orwellian state” or Hobbs’ “Leviathan”) are defined parenthetically within the text. The book includes supplementary material including questions for further discussion, bibliographies of books and periodicals, organizational contact information, and a particularly comprehensive index.
The volume’s currency with regard to up-to-date technologies, the privacy concerns of airline travelers, and the expectations of heightened security given the present international conflicts make this an important update for collections. Recommended for school and public libraries.