1997 ASIS Mid-Year Meeting Preview
Personal Privacy: An Introduction to Some Issues and What to Do about Them
by Barbara Flood, guest editor of special section sponsored by SIGs/TIS and MED
© 1997 ASIS

Most people know what privacy means to them as individuals. But what is less known is that there is no general agreement on what constitutes privacy. This special section of the Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science is designed to assist readers with a look at the subject of privacy and an introduction to the 1997 ASIS Mid-Year Meeting which will deal in-depth with the subject under the thematic title Information Privacy, Integrity and Data Security.

The papers in this section address the following topics: how databases about people grow; why the loss of privacy is upsetting; imaging, tracking and cable monitoring; how to maintain privacy; and what policy options should be considered. Three papers are concerned with aspects of medical information: advice for information professionals in health care organizations; consideration of privacy from a busy clinician's point of view; and Congressional testimony on health care information confidentiality. Finally, a privacy entrepreneur provides the ten commandments of privacy.

Importantly, each of these papers has models for research about privacy or suggestions for how to deal with privacy in the personal, industrial or policy spheres. I am only too conscious of the many aspects of personal privacy omitted in this issue. Many are or will be covered in the hard copy and online sources suggested.

The bias of these authors in favor of individual privacy is clear. Another issue of the Bulletin, perhaps, will take up corporate aspects, such as trade secrets and proprietary rights, as opposed to the public's interest embodied in choice, access and right-to-know. Corporations also have interests in determining and using information about individuals for various business reasons; this is the flip side of personal privacy. Analogously, governments have national security interests and secrets. Governments also have interests in information about individuals for various purposes, including the public weal. The delicate balance among individual, corporation and government in regard to privacy has been upset by advances in computer and telecommunication technologies. A new set point needs to be achieved. The interdisciplinary thrust of ASIS is a perfect forum for addressing these issues.

Barbara Flood is consulting psychologist with ARC/Philadelphia Disabilities Corporation.