Assault on Privacy

The main point of the article was to discuss the consequences and threats that the new age of computing might bring forth. The article warned against a “Dossier Society,” in which the government or big institutions has information on every individual in the country. The author mentions that companies feel like they need all the information they can get to be most effective in their marketing or research. Prior to the advent of the computer, it was impossible to amass and study large amounts of data, yet with the computer the age of “big data” was created. The novel 1984 was mentioned as well, as an allusion that readers during this time period would understand. The novel speaks about a dystopian society in which the government is always watching and monitoring its people and any hint of subservience would result in punishment. The article seemingly connotes that this dystopian concept was now much more realistic.

It is most interesting that this article takes place before the internet became popular. I wonder what Miller would think now that certain websites ask for credit card numbers, bank numbers, social security and other extremely personal and private information. Computers are much more intimate and integral to society now then they were before, and it is much more important to protect privacy now. Whole identities can be stolen through computers now and users must be much more vigilant. The article mostly talked about protection in terms of big institutions that ask for data, and how they must protect the data that they ask for. Now, personal computers are at risk as well and will usually have less protection than big companies.

The article stressed possible ways of protecting data and brought to light the question of if people will use privacy methods. Miller lists all these possible methods of protecting data, but notes that many companies will not take the time or money to institute these changes. He also touches on the fact that there are very few laws for the internet and computers, especially at this time. Computers were not invented with the intent to accomplish all they can do, and therefore it was hard to predict how to stop crimes with computers. Now, hacking and task forces against hacking are a huge network and thriving industry due to our dependency on computers. Miller is ahead of his time as he asks the question to the extent of data that companies should be allowed to ascertain, the liability of companies that hold this data, and government intervention in protecting this data. All these issues are still very relevant and pressing today.


One thought on “Assault on Privacy

  1. In his writing, Miller is incredibly concerned about the privacy of the individual. He cites issues such as a lack of context, information that is too sensitive, and the ease with which a person could hack a data base as problems that threaten individuals. I agree with you that Miller seems to be thinking ahead of his time. He raises questions of security but also suggests multiple possibilities to fix these issues. For example, he suggests the usage of passwords, fingerprint and voiceprint scanners, or closed circuit television channels to prevent the wrong people from accessing important data.
    Miller wrote this piece in 1971. This, as Sam pointed out, was before the Internet. Sam’s response made me question how Miller would view the Internet. Arthur R. Miller is currently a professor at New York University, and has written over forty books and given a multitude of lectures, many of which concern privacy in the modern era. His lectures have titles such as “Privacy in a World of Big Data and Emerging Internet Superpowers” and “The Emerging Law of the Internet” and explore ways in which the United States law is constantly changing to attempt to better protect the privacy of individuals on the Internet. Although Miller is intent on trying to maintain the individual’s privacy, it is ironic how much information can be found about Miller on the Internet. Googling his name brings up different biographies, pictures, news articles, and descriptions of his life. As an advocate of individual privacy, it seems strange that Miller’s information is so readily available. Yet this just serves to further emphasize his point that personal information is easily accessed because of computers, and even he is not immune to this.

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