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Privacy in the Information Age


 Engaging Privacy and Information Technology in a Digital Age
This report examines how threats to privacy are evolving, ongoing information technology trends, and how society can balance the interests of individuals, businesses, and government in ways that promote privacy reasonably and efficiently.

Project Scope

"Privacy in the Information Age" is a comprehensive assessment that will evaluate causes for concern about privacy in the information age and tools and strategies for responding. It will assess risks to personal information associated with information technology and their interaction with non-technology-based risks, incidence of actual problems relative to the potential, trends in technology and practice that will influence impacts on privacy, and so on. It will evaluate the context for those causes of concern -- why personal information is at risk, how and why that information is shared, and trends in its storage, communication, storage, combination with other information, and various uses. It will examine the tradeoffs (e.g., between more personalized marketing and more monitoring of personal buying patterns) involved in the collection and use of personal information, including the incidence of benefits and costs, and it will examine alternative approaches to collection and use and alternative incidence of benefits and costs. These issues cut across many others. The project will assess alternative tools and strategies for alleviating the risks and balancing interests associated with the collection and use of personal information. It will culminate in a comprehensive report, which will document the assessment and the range of relevant points of view, illuminate areas for research, and present a set of annotated options and recommendations for private and public sector actions. Options and recommendations might involve technical measures, practice and procedure, law, regulation, or special agreements. Consensus on recommendations will be sought to the extent possible; a consensus description of the problem, options, and alternative positions will be provided.

Committee Members

William Webster, Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy, Chair
James Waldo, Sun Microsystems, Vice Chair
Julie Cohen, Georgetown University Law Center
Robert Crandall, Brookings Institution (Resigned April 2006)
Oscar Gandy, University of Pennsylvania
James Horning, Network Associates Laboratories
Gary King, Harvard University
Ellen Knapp, Independent Consultant
Brent Lowensohn, Independent Consultant
Gary Marx, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (emeritus)
Helen Nissenbaum, New York University
Robert O'Neil, University of Virginia
Janey Place, Digital Thinking
Ron Rivest, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Teresa Schwartz, George Washington University

Lloyd Cutler, Wilmer, Cutler, Pickering, Hale, & Dorr, LLP, served as co-chair until his death in May 2005.


Herb Lin, Senior Scientist
Lynette I. Millett, Senior Program Officer and Study Director
David Padgham, Associate Program Officer
Kristen Batch, Associate Program Officer
Janice Sabuda, Senior Program Assistant


Grants for this project have been received from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, the Sloan Foundation, the AT&T Foundation, and the Carnegie Corporation of New York.