History Repeating: Alan Westin in 1967 on NSA Data Surveillance

Wanted to look for information security references in Alan Westin’s seminal 1967 book Privacy and Freedom, when I came across a 1968 book review in the Washington and Lee Law Review. Check this out:

Since World War II advancement in electronic spying devices has presented increasing threats to privacy in society. Mr. Westin attributes this increase in surveillance to the general low cost and ease with which electronic devices may be obtained. An additional factor is the change in social mores, evidenced by individual willingness to divulge more information on living habits and a general element of curiosity present in all societies, reflected by popular demand for intimate details of the lives of public figures. Mr. Westin, however, does not limit the concept of surveillance to physical observation, wiretapping or eavesdropping. He includes psychological surveillance (use of personality testing and lie detectors as a means of personnel selection) and data surveillance (central collection of information on individuals in computer banks).

History repeating. Westin, who died recently at the age of 83 (NY Times obituary), wasn’t too right about the Supreme Court’s readiness to protect privacy, though:

The author contends that American law is beginning to respond to this increase in surveillance by offering greater protection of privacy. For example, he feels the Supreme Court is moving toward the protection of privacy as a constitutional right under the fourth amendment.

Enter Clapper v. Amnesty…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.