Public Officials Become Protective of Privacy When Under Scrutiny

Even the biggest snoops don't like it when you turn the tables on them


To those of us who think about privacy a lot, it's not just funny but also amazing how, when public officials discover that they can be at the receiving end of bad privacy policies, it tends to produce an immediate, electric effect on policy. I've already written about the Video Privacy Protection Act, which was passed after a journalist obtained Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork's video rental records. At a time when video stores were a primary means of accessing pornography, Congress sat bolt upright and quickly passed an unusually strong law—albeit one that covered only video rental records and failed to address any of the other privacy problems the nation was facing.