Protection of Privacy

April 20, 1966

Report Outline
Prominent Cases of Invasion of Privacy
Moves Fo Restrict Abuses of Privacy
Spying Devices and Restraints on Use
Constitutional Protection of Privacy

Prominent Cases of Invasion of Privacy

American citizens have gained in recent months important new safeguards against invasion of their privacy. At the same time, many have learned for the first time how fragile have been the walls of protection against snooping. Two Supreme Court decisions in less than a year —the most recent on April 4 —have at last begun to define the constitutional barriers to invasion of privacy. But other events and disclosures raise doubts about how effectively even a constitutional right to privacy can be defended in the present “fishbowl age.”

Airing of three recent cases of snooping in widely separated areas of life has demonstrated how easily the private lives of individuals may be exposed to strangers. The three cases concerned a government plan to place an American history professor under surveillance during a summer trip abroad; prying into the private life of a crusader for automobile safety by detectives hired by an industrial giant; and intra-industry espionage. While certain corrective measures were taken after these cases were brought to public attention, there was little assurance that other undercover assaults on privacy would be abandoned as a result.

The cases that recently came to light carried a particularly strong impact because of publicity about the technical improvement of eavesdropping devices. It is generally realized that it is now possible for the “unseen eye and ear,” which have become miniscule in size and remarkably efficient, to invade what were once the safest sanctums of private life, even the bedroom of a man and his wife. So disturbing have these developments become that no less than half a dozen congressional subcommittees have gone into one or another phase of the privacy question since the present Congress convened in January 1965. One of the subcommittees, headed by Sen. Edward V. Long (D Mo.), has been unearthing hidden instances of privacy-invading practices by government agencies and non-government interests for the past two years and has still not completed its explorations.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Feb. 09, 2018  Privacy and the Internet
Dec. 04, 2015  Privacy and the Internet
Oct. 25, 2013  Big Data and Privacy
Aug. 30, 2013  Government Surveillance
Jan. 25, 2013  Social Media Explosion
Sep. 17, 2010  Social Networking
Nov. 06, 2009  Online Privacy Updated
Nov. 17, 2006  Privacy in Peril
Jun. 15, 2001  Privacy Under Attack
Nov. 06, 1998  Internet Privacy
Nov. 19, 1993  Privacy in the Workplace
Apr. 17, 1992  Politicians and Privacy
Jan. 20, 1989  Your Right to Privacy
Mar. 21, 1986  Privacy in the Workplace
Oct. 18, 1974  Rights to Privacy
Apr. 05, 1967  Wiretapping and Bugging
Apr. 20, 1966  Protection of Privacy
Nov. 09, 1961  Wiretapping in Law Enforcement
Feb. 29, 1956  Surveillance of Spying
Jan. 25, 1956  Eavesdropping Controls
Mar. 14, 1949  Wire Tapping