Review of The Electronic Privacy Papers

The Electronic Privacy Papers is not about electronic privacy in general: it covers only United States Federal politics, and only the areas of wiretapping and cryptography. The three topics covered are wiretapping and the Digital Telephony proposals, the Clipper Chip, and other controls on cryptography (such as export controls and software key escrow proposals).

The documents included fall into several categories. There are broad overviews of the issues, some of them written just for this volume. There are public pronouncements and documents from various government bodies: legislation, legal judgements, policy statements, and so forth. There are government documents obtained under Freedom of Information requests (some of them partially declassified documents complete with blacked out sections and scrawled marginal annotations), which tell the story of what happened behind the scenes. And there are newspaper editorials, opinion pieces, submissions to government enquiries, and policy statements from corporations and non-government organizations, presenting the response from the public.

Some of the material included in The Electronic Privacy Papers is available online, none of it is breaking news (the cut-off for material appears to be mid-to-late 1996), and some of the government documents included are rather long-winded (no surprise there). It is not intended to be a “current affairs” study, however; nor is it aimed at a popular audience. The Electronic Privacy Papers will be a valuable reference sourcebook for anyone involved with recent government attempts to control the technology necessary for privacy — for historians, activists, journalists, lobbyists, researchers, and maybe even politicians.

Categories: Text, The Electronic Privacy Papers

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.