The Right to Privacy (Point Counterpoint) by Martha Bridegam

By Martha Bridegam

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In workplaces, as in other contexts, supervision can take the form of panopticism — an idea that dates back at least to the 18th-century English philosopher and inventor Jeremy Bentham. Bentham’s panopticon design is still used in prisons — and sometimes even in shopping malls. It consists of a circular building lined with cells on its inner walls, all watched from a central guard tower. The philosopher Michel Foucault commented, “All that is needed . . 39 40 THE RIGHT TO PRIVACY Bentham’s Panopticon aimed to give authorities complete control over prisoners through a disparity in access to information: the guards would be able to see the prisoners at all times, but the prisoners never would see the guards.

New diagnostic tools), about health or ‘wellness’ classes, about support groups, and about health fairs are permitted, and are not considered marketing. —Department of Health and Human Services, “Standards for Privacy of Individually Identifiable Health Information, Final Rule,” 67 FR 53182, 53189, August 14, 2002 Institutions and Businesses Exploit Personal Information 61 incomes, and other sensitive subjects. Students who feel their FERPA rights have been violated can file a complaint asking the Secretary of Education to investigate.

4 Customer profiles developed through credit card purchase records can provide protection as well as convenience. This writer once celebrated a new job with a big trip to the mall, charging purchases of formal office wear and, on impulse, a pair of cowboy boots. The credit card company called that evening: had the card been stolen? It was a little unsettling to wonder why—was it the amount spent, or did the Western wear stand out from a customer profile marked “frumpy urban Yankee”? Still, it was nice to feel protected from fraud.

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