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Enjoy Your Privacy; It'll Be Gone In A Few Years (1967)

The August 17, 1967 Salina Journal (Salina, KS) ran a headline that caught my eye: "Enjoy Your Privacy; It'll Be Gone In a Few Years."

Someone from the year 2010 might look at this headline and expect to read an article with rather prescient predictions of how a vast network of computers might allow for the sharing of personal data, causing "privacy" to virtually disappear. Remember that 1967 was the same year Philco-Ford depicted some pretty spot-on predictions about the future of personal computing in a film about the year 1999...

But after reading the article it's not entirely clear to me from where they expect this invasion of privacy to be coming. Is this a fear of camera surveillance brought about by technological progress? And if so, by whom? The government? Your neighbors?

The article is reprinted from the New York Times and quotes Harry Kalven, Jr., a professor of law at the University of Chicago:

[...] by the year 2000, "man's technical inventiveness may, in terms of privacy, have turned the whole community into the equivalent of an army barracks. It may be a final ironic commentary of how bad things have become by 2000 when someone will make a fortune merely by providing, on a monthly, weekly, daily, or even hourly basis a room of one's own."

You can read the entire article -- which also includes predictions about pocket telephones, home computers and artificial moons -- at Scribd.

Previously on Paleo-Future:


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Reader Comments (6)

Privacy is going.going,gone ... at least some day and probably sooner than we think. The internet gives people the ability to find out anything about anyone on anything they want to know about. People searches, reverse phone look ups, criminal checks,you name it and you can find it.

February 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMilia Monacia

It seems like this article was more worried about crowding than it was surveillance. Think Soylent Green (which was made about five years after this was published).

February 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSpaceHobo

I think you're right SpaceHobo.

February 13, 2010 | Registered CommenterMatt Novak

I agree. Overpopulation was a hot topic in the late '60s. Harry Harrison's Make Room! Make Room! was published in 1966, and John Brunner's Stand on Zanzibar in 1968.

Make Room! Make Room! featured increasingly shrinking living space. No one had any privacy. The whole eating processed dead people was added for the movie.

February 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCraigT

I actually do remember reading articles in the Seventies about the possibility that widespread adoption of computers could jeopardize privacy. What they imagined was slightly different from what we've got: generally some central government database of the dirt of everybody, belonging to Big Brother, not this flood of correlatable snippets of information given away to private entities in the name of convenience. But the basic idea was there.

(I also remember reading a 1970s article in Computerworld or Datamation or some such trade magazine that described the Y2K problem. The author said that when the time rolled around he was going to found a remediation firm called "Father Time Inc." and make a million bucks.)

February 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMatt McIrvin

I think something uncensored like DirtyPhoneBook might help lead to a privacy tipping point. The key to that is that it publishes info without consent.

Facebook is also trending in that direction, but they have controls that will eventually be used by people to protect their info, in my opinion.

April 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Blake

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