Bar News - October 19, 2007
Digital Privacy: A Brave New World?
The following is the introduction to an article – Digital Privacy: A Brave New World?- – by Drew Lewis and Kelly L. Frey, II. The piece first appeared in the Nashville Bar Journal, September 2007 and discusses the prevalence of the digital world in our lives and certain attendant concerns about privacy. You can read the full article at: http://www.nhbar.org/publications/digitalprivacy.asp.
All it takes is a visit to a downtown restaurant or a trip to an airport lobby to observe how engrained in our daily lives Treos©, Blackberrys©, iPhones©, PDAs, laptop computers, and other digital devices have become. We have, in many ways, become cyborgs in a new social order centered upon digital convenience.
Digital devices have become repositories for our most private and personal information. We keep our bank records on our laptops and pay bills digitally through WiFi links at the local coffee shop. We create a “commercial self” as a result of the personal shopping preferences that reside on our computers and the cookies we accept from internet merchants who are eager to use our prior browsing and buying habits as triggers for new sales opportunities. We store our family photographs on our PDAs rather than carrying pictures of our loved ones in our wallets. We blog, we email, and invariably we hit the “save” button every time we convert a thought, a feeling, or a vision to digital form. Our digital devices have become extensions of ourselves, of our intangible personalities; they are the principal interface between ourselves and the world around us.
But in this brave new world, can we expect the same protection for our “digital self” as we expect for our “physical self?” The short answer from new state legislation and recent enforcement actions by federal administrative bodies such as the Federal Trade Commission seems to be yes. However, our federal legislators, courts, and law enforcement officials seem to be equivocating in supplying answers that attempt to properly balance our rights of privacy and our need for governmental protection in the new digital world.