Contrary to the sensationalistic headlines that occur on a regular basis and then fade into distant memory, privacy is not a temporary issue that will fade over time. If anything, privacy concerns will intensify in the coming years.
Virtually every poll ever taken on the importance of privacy has shown that it is regarded as a major concern by individuals. Equifax, the large credit reporting agency, conducted an extensive opinion survey in 1990 and found that nearly four out of five people surveyed expressed concern that their privacy is “threatened.” In 1978, just less than one-third of those surveyed (31 percent) said they were “very concerned” about their privacy being threatened. Almost one-half of those surveyed in 1990 (46 percent) felt “very concerned.”
In an address at the first conference on Computers, Freedom, and Privacy in 1991, constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe called for a 27th Amendment to the Constitution,
“... in order to preserve privacy and other individual rights threatened by the spread of computer technology… to cope with the many questions raised by the advent of ‘cyberspace,’ a place without physical walls, or even physical dimensions, where an increasing amount of the world’s communications and business—ranging from ordinary letters to huge global transfers of money—is taking place, via computer and telephone lines.”
According to Tribe, there is a serious possibility that the Constitution’s fundamental protections for individuals will be “metamorphosed into oblivion” unless policymakers come to terms with the ramifications of technological change. Tribe’s remedy is simple: Constitutional protections for free speech and against unreasonable search and seizure would be fully applicable in all situations, regardless of the technological method or medium used.