Personal Privacy in an Information Society. Introduction


This report is about records and people. It looks toward a national policy to guide the way public and private organizations treat the records they keep about individuals. Its findings reflect the fact that in American society today records mediate relationships between individuals and organizations and thus affect an individual more easily, more broadly, and often more unfairly than was possible in the past. This is true in spite of almost a decade of effort to frame the objectives of a national policy to protect personal privacy in an information-dependent society. It will remain true unless steps are taken soon to strike a proper balance between the individual's personal privacy interests and society's information needs. In this report, the Privacy Protection Study Commission identifies the steps necessary to strike that balance and presents the Commission's specific recommendations for achieving it. This introductory chapter briefly describes the problem and focuses and defines the objectives of a national policy. It also weighs major competing values and interests and explains how the Commission believes its policy recommendations should be implemented.