On authors who were publishing information technology panopticon concerns in the 1980s, or earlier

A quickie dump.

Paul Baran / RAND

  • "On the Engineer's Responsibility in Protecting Privacy"

  • "On the Future Computer Era: Modification of the American Character and the Role of the Engineer, or, A Little Caution in the Haste to Number"

  • "The Coming Computer Utility -- Laissez-Faire, Licensing, or Regulation?"

  • "Remarks on the Question of Privacy Raised by the Automation of Mental Health Records"

  • "Some Caveats on the Contribution of Technology to Law Enforcement"

Largely written/published 1967--1969.

Willis Ware / RAND

Too numerous to list fully, 1960s --1990s. Highlights:

  • "Security and Privacy in Computer Systems" (1967)

  • "Computers in Society's Future" (1971)

  • "Records, Computers and the Rights of Citizens" (1973

  • "Privacy and Security Issues in Information Systems" (1976)

  • "Information Systems, Security, and Privacy" (1983)

  • "The new faces of privacy" (1993)


Shoshana Zuboff, In the Age of the Smart Machine: The Future of Work and Power (1988) Notably reviewed in the Whole Earth Catalog's Signal: Communication Tools for the Information Age (1988).

"Danger to Civil Rights?", 80 Microcomputing (1982) (

"Computer-Based National Information Systems: Technology and Public Policy", NTIS (September 1981)

"23 to Study Computer ‘Threat’" (1970)

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

"Privacy and Information Technology" bibliography is largely 1990--present, but contains some earlier references.

Similarly "Privacy"

Credit Reporting / Legislation

US Privacy Act of 1974

Invasion of Privacy Act 1971 - Queensland Government, Australia

Arthur R. Miller, The assault on privacy: computers, data banks, and dossiers

"The Computer, the Consumer and Privacy" (1984)

Richard Boeth / Newsweek

The specific item I'd had in mind:

Richard Boeth, "Is Privacy Dead", Newsweek, July 27, 1970

Direct PDF:

Based on an HN comment:

Jill Lepore has an annotated bibliography on the history of privacy, with excellent sources;

From her New Yorker article "The Prism: Privacy in an age of publicity":

@dredmorbius Ted Nelson's Computer Lib/Dream Machines (1974) often addresses corporate domination vs personal use.

There were many short pieces in PCC newsletters and Creative Computing of 1970s.

@dredmorbius a good amount of our current issues i feel trace back to stuff the theophilosophical society was busily seeding into the last hundred years of iterative social consciousness. agree or ? this is a great list, thank you ! mind if i put it at my blog at as well? its federated..

@ringo You're talking about Helena Blavatsky?

What principles or themes, if you don't mind?

And yes, you're more than welcome to the list, as well as to extend, expand, annotate it, etc.

@dredmorbius yes and her associates- those who were organized to do those things in That locus. Proof? I was always bad at that part of geometry. It may take a while and i may forget. Ill try.

@ringo I'm not looking for proofs, just a few keywords or references that I can track down.


@dredmorbius People have been concerned about computers and their effects on privacy for a long time, but it's only within the last decade that it has become a tangible problem for the average person.

@bob It seems to run in waves, particularly as new technologies come online.

There was a wave ov awareness that began amongst domain experts in the 1960s and spread to the general public in the 1970s, largely as mainframe data processing revolutionised business practices.

There were earlier pulses, notably with telephony, as practices, norms, legislation, and caselaw emerged (largely around tap-and-trace). You could look earlier to telegraphy and post offices (often surveillance mechanisms themselves).

Since the mid-1970s, you've had a gradual replacement of "The Computer", a singular system, with a general distributed net of "computers", or "The Net" (or Web, or Mesh, or Cloud). During the 1980s -- 1990s, the principle issues seemed to revolve around either PC malware or targeted high-level hacks (see Clif Stoll's The Cuckoo's Egg).

Starting in the early 2000s, large-scale data aggregation, to the scale of KB to MB per person within a large country, or worldwide, was becoming tractable at the scale of a relatively small business. (Credit profiling itself dates to the 19th century.) Bandwidth, latency, datacentre scale, and programming was making a confluence of activities (adtech, social media, profiling, surveillance, computational propaganda) possible. Whilst sinking the revenue model of traditional media.

Technology enables. What it enables is often not beneficial.

@dredmorbius Paul Baran is noted in a number of early-internet books as one of the primary thinkers of distributed systems. RAND has a good page for this,

this is an absolute wonderful delight to hear that he has some other very interesting, pro-human works that he's been up to.

also, happy +1year -change to this toot.

@jauntywunderkind420 Right.

Several of those were freely available online as of a few years ago, though numerous others weren't.

I asked if RAND could make one of his unpublished articles freely available, and in response they released all his RAND works.

It's quite the trove.

Sign in to participate in the conversation

On the internet, everyone knows you're a cat — and that's totally okay.