WHO OWNS INFORMATION? by Anne Wells Branscomb


From Privacy to Public Access
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 A masterful introduction to the issues of ownership of and access to data in the fast-arriving information age, complete with suggestions for needed legislative and judicial reform. The US is becoming an information-dominated culture, and technological innovations of the last two decades have outstripped the ability of our laws to resolve the problems that arise from them. Branscomb, a Harvard-based policy analyst, outlines the issues--many of them far-reaching and clearly in want of attention--surrounding control of the masses of information now being collected and disseminated. These include such apparently innocent data as names, addresses, and telephone numbers (which feed the multibillion-dollar mail-order and telephone-service industries); medical histories (a national health database proposed by Clinton would help in the elimination of some diseases but would sacrifice privacy); personal electronic messages (which some companies presume a right to censor); and the mountains of information gathered by the government (should government agencies sell such data or turn them over to privileged companies and individuals to sell themselves?). Branscomb rigorously assays the nuances of these and other complex and far-reaching issues (junk mail and computer messages, for example, level forests, overburden telephone and mail services, even raise taxes). She gives us access to the new argot of technological development--terms like ``encrypment'' and ``decompilation.'' It's Branscomb's contention, finally, that these issues are too important to leave to politicians, lawyers, and corporate heads. For newcomers to such issues--which almost all of us are- -this brief, rigorous investigation will prove extremely useful in establishing positions and politicking for reforms.

Pub Date: June 29th, 1994
ISBN: 0-465-09175-X
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Basic
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1994