The Limits of Privacy

Book coverPrivacy isn't all it's made out to be, says George Washington University scholar Amitai Etzioni. "Without privacy no society can long remain free," he writes, but our communities also have other goals that sometimes must override the privacy imperative. "Should the FBI be in a position to crack the encrypted messages employed by terrorists before they use them to orchestrate the next Oklahoma City bombing?" he asks. Etzioni's answer is a resounding "yes," and he applies similar logic to a number of areas. He believes, for example, that newborn babies should undergo HIV tests without parental consent because they could benefit from immediate treatment, even though mothers worried about personal revelations might object. He also supports the various sorts of "Megan's laws" that try to protect society against sex offenders.

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Submitted on: 7-Jan-2003