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17 Info. & Comm. Tech. L. 1 (2008)

handle is hein.journals/infctel17 and id is 1 raw text is: Information & Communications Technology Law                               Routledge
Vol. 17, No. 1, March 2008, 1-2 orFrancsGroup
Privacy and the public/private divide
Chris Ashford'* and Mark O'Brienb
aDepartment of Law, University of Sunderland, UK; bSchool of Law, University of the West of
England, Bristol, UK
This is a free country, madam. We have a right to share your privacy in a public place.
(Sir Peter Ustinov)
This special edition of Information & Communications Technology Law draws upon the
annual Information Technology Law & Cyberspace Stream of the Socio-Legal Studies
Association held at Kent University in April 2007. Once again, the stream brought
together a range of papers seeking to examine the challenges that the evolving information
society presents for law and some of the problems law presents for our society in this
This issue focuses upon the prevalent theme of the conference sessions - that of privacy
and the public/private divide. Fenwick (2007: 73) has noted that the concept of 'private
life' appears 'to encompass a widening range of protected interests' particularly with
regard to what the state regards as the boundaries to private life. A casual observer of the
British media can be in no doubt that the issue of privacy is one that has gained a
prominent role in the United Kingdom's political debate, as it has in other countries. The
ongoing ID cards and biometrics debate is one such example, whilst recent controversies
surrounding the National Health Service (NHS) database is another, together with the loss
of disks containing the personal details - including bank account information - of 25
million British citizens. Each debate and controversy has cast the State as an Orwellian Big
Brother seeking ever greater amounts of data though, unlike Big Brother, commentators
have bestowed the trait of incompetence to this.
Bainbridge (2008: 635) has observed that within the information society, the
individual's rights are very vulnerable. He comments that 'all manner of personal
information is stored about us' on a variety of electronic systems. As the would-be NHS
doctors caught in the NHS computer scandal discovered, much of that data can be
sensitive and potentially hurtful or damaging if placed in the hands of unintended
This special issue explores the scope of the 'public' and the 'private' as they relate to
some of the opportunities for new types of communication that have resulted from the
information revolution. In 'Blogging: A privacy perspective', Karen McCullagh explores
privacy in the context of the 'blogging' phenomenon. She initially highlights one of the
*Corresponding author. Email: chris.ashford@sunderland.ac.uk
ISSN 1360-0834 print/ISSN 1469-8404 online
0 2008 Taylor & Francis
DOI: 10.1080/13600830801886950

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