“It’s about the next twenty years. In the {nineteen} twenties and thirties, it was the role of government. In the fifties and sixties, it was civil rights. The next two decades are going to be privacy. I’m talking about the Internet. I’m talking about cell phones. I’m talking about health records and who’s gay and who’s not.” ~ Sam Seaborn, The West Wing, season 1, episode 9

Sam Seaborn makes this impassioned speech, championing privacy as of ultimate concern, during a discussion about a potential Supreme Court nominee who did not recognize privacy as a right guaranteed by the Constitution.

Sam’s speech occurred during the first season of The West Wing, which ran in 1999. 1999. Fifteen years ago. And yes, Sam was right. Privacy is central concern now, nearly twenty years after he spoke those words. The Internet and cell phones have given way to Big Data, social media, geolocation, drones, instant streaming of video…and the realization that outside of our homes—whether online or physically out in public—we should have no expectation of privacy. And perhaps no legal right to it.


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