The Start Of Something?

What *is* privacy in the digital age? And what’s it worth to me? What Are You Lookin’ At?

WHAT does it take to get Americans riled about invasions of privacy?

Every week seems to bring reports of a new breach of the computer networks that contain our most intimate personal information. Scores of companies – including Bank of America, MasterCard, ChoicePoint and Marriott International – have admitted to security lapses that exposed millions of people’s financial information to potential abuse by identity thieves. For the most part, however, Americans have reacted with a collective shrug, many privacy experts said.

“They feel they can’t do anything about it, anyway,” said Lawrence Ponemon, the founder of a privacy consulting company, the Ponemon Institute. “They move on with their lives.”

Has something fundamental changed in Americans’ attitude toward privacy? Conditioned by the convenience of the Internet and the fear of terrorism, has the public incrementally redefined what belongs exclusively to the individual, and now feels less urgency about privacy?

Mr. Ponemon says this may be the case with young people, who post the most personal information about their lives and loves on blogs that can be read by millions.

New light may be shed on how Americans think about privacy – and the differences they see between commercial and government realms – in the reaction to news that President Bush signed a presidential order in 2002 allowing the National Security Agency to conduct domestic surveillance on individuals without the warrants required by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Does the public reaction suggest that complacency has its limits?

Related: Justice Deputy Resisted Parts of Spy Program