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In his futuristic novel of a political society destitute of individual privacy, 1984, George Orwell has his central character, Winston, reminisce about the past. "Tragedy, he preceived, belonged to the ancient time, to a time when there were still privacy, love, and friendship, and when the members of a family stood by one another without needing to know the reason." Within the context of the novel, privacy emerges as something far more crucial than simply a sentimental value like love or friendship. In reality, a society devoid of individual privacy makes the very basis of democracy- individualism-difficult to attain. An individual who is constantly under surveillance, or one who knows that at any time he may be observed, will limit his external conduct to prescribed standards of safe conformity. Internally, if there is no outlet for one's own individualistic tendencies, the mind comes to fit into a conformist mold much the same as one's external actions. An absence of privacy is crucial for totalitarian government to subsist. Within American society today, privacy has become a much-discussed topic. A number of factors-urbanization, technology, the welfare state, cold war security pressures-have all contributed to a serious diminishment of the individual's privacy in contemporary American life. Increasingly as privacy has lessened for individuals and groups, so too has the vital interrelationship between privacy and democracy become clearer. One particularly important response has been that of the American legal system, principally through the actions of the United States Supreme Court.


R.H. Clark, Attorney, Antitrust Division, Justice Department, Washington, D.C.; A.B., University of California (Riverside), 1966; M.A., University of California (Santa Barbara), 1967; Ph.D., 1970; J.D; Capital University, 1977. The views expressed herein represent those of the author and not the Department of Justice.

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