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Chapter 17. WHERE ARE WE GOING? > Legislation and Regulation

Legislation and Regulation

Resolution of the contemporary and future privacy concerns will take more than the collective will of society. True there are new forces coming into prominence, new technologies for widespread communication and quick organization of positions and groups—the facsimile machine and electronic mail among others. In the end, though, law is almost certainly essential; getting the attention of the political process is always hard but there is homework to be done first. Privacy as a social phenomenon, driven so hard by technology and the exploitation of information, must be understood and its intricacy structured. Until that can be done, we are likely to be taking potshots at problems and consequences that may not be the central problems in the big picture.

(Source: Willis H. Ware, Rand Corporation, July 2001, http://www.southernct.edu/organizations/rccs/resources/research/comp_and_priv/ware/intro.html)

Just as there is tension in humans between preserving privacy and receiving some benefit like a discount on a purchase, there is tension between the desire to protect rights by building a legal infrastructure, and the desire to minimize government restriction and regulation, which is seen as an intrusion. Predictably, different governments have responded differently. In the United States, regulation has been narrowly focused on specific business sectors or affected audiences. In Europe and Australia, the governments have adopted privacy principles and have then developed rules that require compliance to those principles. We will continue to see both the tension and differences in regulatory styles.


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