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American Privacy: The 400-Year History of Our Most Contested Right

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ISBN-13: 978-0807044414
ISBN-10: 0807044415
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Editorial Reviews

Review

“This is a fascinating read for any American who wants a deeper understanding of one of the most important and contentious issues of our age.”—Geoffrey R. Stone, author of Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime
 
American Privacy is a deeply informed discussion of the history and present state of a fundamental American value. Frederick Lane’s detailed account of the attacks against our basic right to privacy is chilling.”—Craig Newmark, founder, craigslist
 
“From its humble beginnings as the right of citizens to not have their houses, papers, and persons searched without warrant, to the complex laws and regulations that we have today, Lane’s book lays out what our privacy is and how easily it can be compromised from all sides.”—Jonathon Howard, Sacramento Book Review
 
“Frederick Lane’s timely and lucid history lays bare how attacks on privacy by government and industry threaten democracy itself. Essential reading.”—Christopher M. Finan, author of From the Palmer Raids to the Patriot Act


From the Trade Paperback edition.

Review

"Is there anything more fundamental to human freedom than the right to privacy, to be able to live your life as you wish without the scrutiny or the interference of bullying authority? Frederick Lane’s book confronts us with this largely invisible threat, magnified by modern technology, and challenges us to defend our most basic rights."
—Howard Zinn

"Frederick Lane’s American Privacy is a highly readable history of the right to privacy in America. It brings to life the people, debates, and events that have shaped our current protections of privacy."
—Daniel J. Solove, author of Understanding Privacy  

"American Privacy is a deeply informed discussion of the history and present state of a fundamental American value. Frederick Lane’s detailed account of the attacks against our basic right to privacy is chilling."
—Craig Newmark, founder, craigslist  

"Written with grace and probing insight, Frederick Lane’s book is a tour de force guide that illuminates our country’s intense relationship with the concept of privacy. Covering the colonial period to today’s digitally driven online society, American Privacy explains how much Americans—and citizens around the world—have at stake if we allow governments and market forces to erode our privacy rights."
—Jeffrey Chester, author of Digital Destiny

"Frederick Lane offers a thoughtful and insightful biography of the right to privacy in American law from the Puritans to the War on Terror. In an illuminating account of the evolution of the right, Lane shows how various threads of the right have emerged over time in our ever more complex society. This is a fascinating read for any American who wants a deeper understanding of one of the most important and contentious issues of our age."
—Geoffrey R. Stone, author of Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime

"Frederick Lane’s timely and lucid history lays bare how attacks on privacy by government and industry threaten democracy itself. Essential reading."
—Christopher M. Finan, author of From the Palmer Raids to the Patriot Act

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press (November 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807044415
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807044414
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,299,259 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I am an author, attorney, expert witness, and professional speaker on the legal and cultural implications of emerging technology. After graduating from Amherst College and Boston College Law School, I clerked for two years for the Honorable Frank H. Freedman, Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts. After practicing law for five years and writing my first book, Vermont Jury Instructions -- Civil and Criminal (with John Dinse and Ritchie Berger), I launched a computer consulting business that in time led to my current work as a computer forensics expert and author.

In response to the passage of the Communications Decency Act in 1996, I began researching the legislative and media response to the rise of the online adult industry. The resulting book, Obscene Profits: The Entrepreneurs of Pornography in the Cyber Age, was the first of what is now five mainstream non-fiction books. The others are:

The Naked Employee: How Technology Is Compromising Workplace Privacy (Amacom 2003);

The Decency Wars: The Campaign to Cleanse American Culture (Prometheus Books 2006);

The Court and the Cross: The Religious Right's Crusade to Reshape the Supreme Court (Beacon Press 2008); and, most recently,

American Privacy: The Four-Hundred-Year History of Our Most Contested Right (Beacon Press 2009);

Cybertraps for the Young (NTI Upstream 2011); and

Cybertraps for Educators (Mathom Press 2015).

In addition to these books, I have have written numerous magazine articles on a variety of topics, including constitutional rights (particularly freedom of speech), privacy online and in the workplace, the impact of technology on our rights and liberties, and the separation of church and state.

On August 23, 2006, I had the honor of appearing on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" to discuss The Decency Wars. I have also appeared as a guest on a variety of other national television programs, including ABC's "Good Morning America Weekend," NBC's "Weekend Today," ABC's "Nightline," CBS's "60 Minutes," and assorted BBC documentaries. In addition to those televised appearances, I have been interviewed by numerous radio shows, magazines, and newspapers around the world on topics relating to my books.

Over the last fifteen years, I have frequently been invited to lecture before college, university, and professional audiences to lecture on Internet technology, workplace and personal privacy, computer forensics, and censorship issues. I am represented by the Jodi R. Solomon Speakers Bureau in Boston, MA and Vermont Voices in Essex Junction, Vermont. An extensive list of recent lecture topics is available through the menu listing at the top of the page.

In my capacity as an expert witness in the field of computer forensics, I have worked on pornography and obscenity-related litigation for a variety of clients, including the U.S. Dept. of Justice, the City of Charlotte, N.C., assorted businesses, and individual defendants.

I live in Brooklyn, NY with my partner, Dr. Amy Werbel; together, we are the parents of four boys. From October 2002 to March 2012, I served on the Burlington School Board. I chaired the Board's Finance subcommittee from 2007 to 2010, served as Clerk of the Board from April 2003 through March 2009, and served as the chairman of the Board from 2010-2012. I also served as a member of the Board of Directors for Vermont Community Access Media, one of the region's three public access television stations.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

By BMG on October 20, 2011
Format: Paperback
American Privacy is a rich and enlightening history of how Americans and our federal government have treated and debated the right to privacy. Lane shows how changing perspectives as well as new technology has increased the conflict between an individual's desire to publicize personal information and his or her need to maintain a "zone of privacy" in order to secure that basic privacy right. The federal government's need to collect data for the census along with the rise of computer technology triggered a further interest in establishing data systems to track and compare information for a variety of government functions, most recently under the guise of national security. Corporate America has followed the same data extraction model with the use of credit cards and has been able to use this information for massive marketing campaigns, targeting consumers with specific interests and tastes.

Lane's treatment of this topic is intriguing and disturbing in its implications. It makes clear the dangers and reality of an Orwellian "big brother" data infrastructure. It also gives the reader much to think about as to how our daily actions may lend tacit approval to such practices by both the federal government and corporations. This is a fascinating and compelling book for all readers and another great read by Fred Lane.
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Format: Hardcover
American Privacy: The 400-Year History of Our Most Contested Right is more than just a historical chronicle of the right to privacy in America; it is also an alarming wake-up call to governmental and non-governmental threats to the level of privacy that previous American generations considered an inalienable right. From privacy in state courts and legislatures, to how the Red Scare of the McCarthy era led to unconscionable attacks on privacy, to the surprising persistence and "durability" of data once it gets into modern online networks, and more, American Privacy is an absorbing account, grounded in solid research yet written with an alert tone warning the reader to take heed of deleterious current trends. Highly recommended. "The modern-day epidemic of identity theft stems from the toxic combination of an intrinsically insecure Social Security number that has become a de facto national identification number, massive computer databases vulnerable to hacking, a rapidly growing global data and communications network, and lax security procedures that allow databases and data processing reports to be stored on laptops. Together these elements have helped the crime of identity theft become one of the fastest-growing problems for law enforcement."
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Fred Lane has managed to make the history and law behind issues of privacy entertaining and memorable. As I read about life in American before the telephone, I could imagine what it must have been really like to live in that era. Fred Lane's writing is just that good. In fact, the writing is consistent throughout. The book is seamless with a smooth style of exposition, what historical writing should be. I thoroughly enjoyed the way Fred Lane was able to take 400 years of American History and view it from the point of view that seems like privacy is what America is all about. The way Fred Lane outlines our lemming-like surrender of personal information in this internet age is certainly convincing that we are on our way, as Americans, to our worst legal nightmare, where Big Brother really does control our lives beyond the scope of what was ever intended.
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