The Privacy Decades

Episode 9 of the TV show The West Wing ( “The Short List” ) dealt with how a U.S. Supreme Court Justice nominee might rule in regards to privacy. The main question being, did a right to privacy exist at all?

This episode aired at the end of 1999, but it has a brief segment that could have been said yesterday:

Rough transcription (emphasis mine):

It’s about the next 20 years.

Twenties and thirties, it was the role of government. Fifties and sixties, it was civil rights. The next two decades, are gonna be privacy.

I’m talking about the Internet. I’m talking about cellphones. I’m talking about health records, and who’s gay and who’s not. And moreover, in a country born on a will to be free, what could be more fundamental than this?

Think of all the restrictions on privacy that have happened since 1999, from the TSA to the recent revelations of the NSA spying on Americans. The question of a right to privacy is even more critical today than it was 14 years ago.