The Right to Privacy in the Digital Age as a Research Topic

The anticipated new film adaptation of the Dave Eggers’ novel The Circle opened starring Tom Hanks and Emma Watson. The movie takes a fresh look at privacy in the digital age where the citizens of corporate culture are not the victims of but rather the perpetrators of a high surveillance norm.

Do you worry about privacy in this digital age? (Credit: YouTube)

Do you worry about privacy in this digital age? (Credit: YouTube)

Research topics could delve into how a society can manifest in a world where privacy no longer exists or how dystopian films have touched on similar issues.

Finding examples of U.S. privacy and data protection laws

To find more information on U.S. privacy protections, you can start your research at Questia where you will find millions of books, newspapers and articles. Unpopular Privacy: What Must We Hide?, a book by Anita L. Allen, is an example of one of the resources you can find at Questia. In the book, Allen argues that privacy is a “foundational good,” and describes how the laws protecting privacy were justified.

“Even before September 11, some commentators were concluding that the United States had become a Kafkaesque bureaucracy evoking ‘impotence, anger, and anxiety’; or, worse, a surveillance society seemingly modeled on Jeremy Bentham’s panopticon or torn from the pages of George Orwell’s novel 1984,” Allen writes in the book.

A thinking film

The Circle is a thriller and cautionary tale that examines what a world would look like where privacy is non-existent. Tom Hanks plays the co-founder of a Silicon Valley–based company called The Circle that stores extensive data on all of its members, and Emma Watson is a “customer experience” manager at the company.

In the April 26, 2017, article, “Tribeca Film Review: Tom Hanks and Emma Watson in ‘The Circle,’” published in Variety.com, Chief Film Critic Owen Gleiberman breaks down the key drivers of what he calls a “thesis drama” that is in itself a study of the dark side of corporate power.

The Circle is so clinical in its paranoia that it doesn’t hit many emotional buttons, but it’s the rare conversation-piece thriller that asks its audience: What sort of society do you really want?,” Gleiberman writes. “The movie shows us what it looks like when people have been convinced to share so much of themselves that they no longer have any selves left.”

Other surveillance thrillers

Before there was The Circle, several films explored similar ideas related to the renunciation of the right to privacy in a world where everyone is virtually connected. In “These dystopian films foreshadowed ‘The Circle,’” an April 21, 2017, post to BostonGlobe.com, writer James Sullivan compares similar themes in film history that are similar to The Circle, such as the 1974 Francis Ford Coppola film, The Conversation.

“Francis Ford Coppola’s surveillance thriller finds bugging expert Gene Hackman agonizing over the fate of the San Francisco couple he has been hired to monitor,” Sullivan writes. “In ‘The Circle,’ thousands of politicians agree to equip themselves with “SeeChange” cameras, going ‘transparent’ to prove their incorruptibility. Soon the public is voluntarily submitting, too, and a lone dissenting character warns against “the unrestrained Manifest Destiny of it all.”

Learn more about privacy issues under law at Questia.

Do you think privacy laws are archaic? Let us know in the comments.

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