Information Privacy Law - Background & Basics

The concept of privacy has been part of Western Civilization at least as far back as the Greeks, yet it has always been and remains maddeningly difficult to define.  It has numerous personal and social dimensions. There is information privacy, bodily privacy, territorial privacy and communications privacy. Privacy issues, and the individual and societal values they reflect, including human dignity and self-determination, are multi-faceted and ever-changing.

Changes in our conception of privacy, and the rules and norms society creates to regulate privacy, can be directly linked to developments in technology. For example, the influential 1890 law review article, “The Right of Privacy” by Warren and Brandeis, which defined privacy as “the right to be left alone,” was a response to the intrusion into an individual’s personal life and affairs which was made possible by the invention of the portable camera and flexible film. That article laid the foundation for development of the common law privacy torts in the U.S. during the 20th century.

To read more about the evolution of information privacy, please click here to read Peter Guffin’s blog on the University of Maine Law School website. Peter is Chair of Pierce Atwood’s Privacy & Data Security Practice Group and a visiting professor at the law school.