Fifty years ago, federal and state lawmakers called for the regulation of a criminal justice “databank” connecting federal, state, and local agencies. There was bipartisan concern that the system imperiled constitutional commitments and people’s crucial life opportunities, including jobs, education, housing, and licenses. Bipartisan congressional concerns of the 1970s should be cause for re-invigoration, not resignation. Recounting the insights of members of the 93rd and 94th Congresses should embolden us. Their concerns clarify the headwinds that reformers face. Then, as now, powerful interests want us to think that privacy and public safety are incompatible. They want us to view diminished expectations of privacy as acceptable, even valuable. Revisiting this history should remind the public that totalizing surveillance is neither acceptable nor desirable. Privacy can and should be ours.

Danielle Citron, A More Perfect Privacy, 104 Boston University Law Review, 1073–1086 (2024).