State University of New York
E-Mail: lawrence.frohmanbabiracki [at] stonybrook.edu
Surveillance, Privacy, and the Politics of Personal Information in West Germany. Forms of Social Power in the West German Information Society
Surveillance and privacy are two of the primary concepts through which we seek to make sense of modernity and of a world in which virtually all forms of social interaction are now digitally mediated. They have already become—and are certain to remain—two of the most contentious policy issues of our age. From 1960 to 1990 West Germany pioneered both the use of new information technologies and computer privacy laws to regulate the processing of personal information. I argue that during these years the systematization of population surveillance gave rise to a new form of social politics, the politics of personal information, to new discourses on privacy, which became the primary means of theorizing the expansion of such surveillance, and to a corresponding privacy-based social movement, which sought to contest the expansion and intensification of population surveillance in the name of both individual autonomy and the collective needs of a democratic society. What can these precocious West German developments tell us about privacy, surveillance, social power, and governance in modern information societies?