Add to basket Add to wishlist Description In "Overseers of the Poor," John Gilliom confronts the everyday politics of surveillance by exploring the worlds and words of those who know it best-the watched.
Consumer buying habits, medical histories, and financial and credit standing are all part of various information databases maintained by the government and private businesses.
We are easily reachable to solicitors of all kinds through mail, telephone, and now, e-mail. The collection of the names of, and information about, dangerous mental patients? Like other freedoms and rights, privacy is not an absolute value; rather, it is one that needs to be balanced against others.
Their dialogue includes historical and cross-national perspectives on privacy, the tensions between privacy and the First Amendment, how celebrity and privacy have come to clash, and legislative and judicial responses to new claims for individual privacy protections.
Taken together, their voices suggest that privacy raises complex issues and competing values. Some Contexts of Privacy There are many contexts in which claims for privacy may arise. It is easy to assume that there has been a sharp decline in privacy over the period of the last century.
But this may not be entirely true. Priscilla Regan, Associate Professor of Political Science at George Mason University, reminds us that individuals had to work hard to protect their privacy even when living in small towns, as most Americans did at the turn of the last century.
Family members, friends, and neighbors comprised a tightly knit network from which there was little opportunity to exit. The local pharmacist was a friend of your parents; neighbors sitting on front porches watched as children and adults walked by.
As Judith Wagner DeCew, Professor of Philosophy at Clark University, observes, people in earlier times saw and understood the situations in which their privacy might be compromised. It was obvious, for example, that grocers knew what foods and other sundries customers bought, and that telephone switchboard operators could listen in on private conversations.
By contrast, current technology makes the threats to privacy less tangible and less visible. It is difficult to know when, or for what purposes, we are being watched or information about us is being gathered.
Changes in technology and cultural understandings about privacy are by no means a uniquely American phenomenon. Yet in the area of medical records, some European countries more aggressively protect patient privacy.
Wagner DeCew points out that in the Netherlands, access to electronic medical data is routinely denied. How much privacy is possible in this climate of celebrity status? And how might the invasion of privacy in the public realm reverberate on the rest of us?
One key legal distinction is between public and private individuals. Laws of libel and slander afford more protections of privacy for private persons than for those in the public eye, notes Regan.
Political figures, as well as celebrities from entertainment, sports, and other industries, can expect to have fewer protections of privacy. First, the line between news and entertainment is blurred.
One visible demonstration of this is the impact that celebrities themselves can have on public attention to news. Strentz points out that when Princess Diana died, part of the press coverage dealt with how she had publicized the land mines issue.
This interview drew fire from leading news journalists, who argued that professional journalists, not celebrities, should be conducting news interviews. Most Americans did not know that President Franklin Roosevelt could not walk without assistance because of the ravages of polio.
Indeed, the press so effectively helped to shield this disability that a considerable debate took place recently about the appropriate depiction of Roosevelt in the new FDR Memorial in Washington, D.
Recent presidents, and candidates for the office, have found their behaviors during and prior to holding public office under increased scrutiny. Which Are the Most Serious? After all, the Census Bureau inquires into minute details of our families, housing, and living arrangements.
The Internal Revenue Service reviews our most intimate financial data. Yet many scholars, including those participating in our dialogue on privacy, see private businesses as the most serious source of privacy invasions today.
It is not only the continual collection of data about individuals that poses privacy concerns, but the ways in which such data can be customized and sold to others. One reason the business sector may pose a greater threat to privacy than the government is that constitutional and statutory controls restrain the government but not industry.
Regan points out that an individual citizen may file a request under the Freedom of Information Act or the Privacy Act to obtain information about government practices. In fact, only a very small number of individuals do so, but these Acts probably serve to deter gross abuses by the government.
Even many businesses have become increasingly sensitive to the importance of the privacy issue. Most companies, especially the online dot.notion of the surveillance society characterizes for me certain negative aspects of heteronomous information societies.
It is opposed to the notion of a participatory, co-operative, sustainable information society (Fuchs, , ; Fuchs, Boersma, Albrechtslund and Sanvoal; Fuchs and Obrist, ). Depending on societal contexts . OVERSEERS OF THE POOR. Persons appointed or elected to take care of the poor with moneys furnished to them by the public authority.
2. The duties of these officers are regulated by local statutes. In general the overseers are bound to perform those duties, and the neglect of them will subject them.
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