A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that
profound secret and mystery to every other. A solemn consideration, when I enter a great
city by night, that every one of those darkly clustered houses encloses its own secret; that
every room in every one of them encloses its own secret; that in every beating heart in the
hundreds of thousands of breasts there is, in some of its imaginings, a secret to the heart
nearest to it!
You already have zero privacy—get over it.
--Scott McNealy, CEO, Sun Microsystems
Should the government be allowed to use complex software to find patterns of spending
or patterns of activities to find out if someone has been committing illegal acts if there is
no probable cause in the first place? Patriot I and Patriot II open the door to that, and that
means everybody in the country is under suspicion.
--Ronald Kahn, professor of politics and law, Oberlin College
There is indeed a whole lot a scannin' goin' on.
People surreptitiously intercept, record,
and disclose the usual suspects for the usual reasons, in the perpetual parade of human
perfidy. Popular motivations are love, sex, drugs, crime, politics, business, and
And if we reflect, we quickly see that none of us is perfect and that all of
us are potential victims.
Who among us does not sometime, somewhere, have something
they would prefer to keep to themselves?
Rodney A. Smolla, “Information as Contraband,” 96
Nw. Univ. L Rev
Human beings as individuals must experience a degree of privacy to thrive. Yet, as they act
inside organizations, they frequently need information about one another, information that may
be sensitive and confidential. Employers want to find out if their workers are productive and
loyal. Corporations want to know the preferences of potential customers or the strategies of their
competitors. Health insurers want access to patient medical histories and genetic profiles.
Governments want to thwart terrorists. Tension between privacy and the need to know is
heightened as computer technology revolutionizes information gathering. The process has never
been so fast, so efficient, so omnipresent.
Ethics Case: Genetic Testing in 2007
It is 2007, the year a Liberian terrorist group claimed responsibility for the explosion of a small
nuclear device in Los Angeles. In this first major domestic terror incident since 9/11/01, Lily
Kim lost an uncle and two college friends. She was still grieving the loss when something was
announced at work that upset her in a new way.
A 33 year old divorced mother of two boys, Lily works for a rapidly expanding biotechnology
company called Greengenes. The company hired her because she had exactly the right training to