Chapter 16: The Regulation of Privacy
Andreas Busch The debate about the regulation of privacy has in recent years above all been linked to technological developments and their uses. From the 1960s onwards, the emergence and spread of computers, data banks, telecommunication, and eventually the internet have led to several waves of concerned public debate about the impact they have on privacy, society, and the state (see as representative publications Packard 1964; Miller 1971; Burnham 1983; Sykes 1999; O’Harrow 2006). In this perspective, individual privacy is threatened by person-related information which can be stored electronically and easily transmitted. Such information has increased massively in recent years; the capacity for cheap storage has grown even more quickly, and, since such information can be digitally processed and cross-linked, new data can be generated from very diverse sources of information, giving them a new quality and allowing very detailed portraits of individual people, their preferences and their characteristics to be created. Regulatory challenges in this field thus include the questions of who is allowed to collect and store such data, by whom and for what purposes they can be retrieved, and what legitimate uses they can be put to. In several countries, disputes about the power of internet search giant Google (whose corporate aim it is ‘to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful’ and whose activities range from scanning books to filming streets) have recently indicated the growing fears of citizens and their representatives about losing control over valued person-related information, moving the issue...
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