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In 1890 Samuel Warren and Louis Brandeis wrote a famous article on the right to privacy. Concerned especially with newspaper publications about private and family matters, they urged that courts recognize an explicit right to privacy from unreasonable publicity. According to Warren and Brandeis, certain already recognized rights did in fact protect a person's wish to keep his private thoughts private, though these 1ights were founded on some more traditional legal theories. For example, the privilege of a writer of a letter to bar anyone's publication of the letter had been articulated in decisions as a property right, even when the "property'' of the thoughts expressed in the letter was of no commercial value; to Warren and Brandeis, the right was really one of "inviolate personality." Drawing upon the historical expansion of the common law to protect a growing category of human interests, they argued that the time had come to develop a more generalized and clearly formulated right of privacy. Commenting on the necessity of such a right, they observed:

The intensity and complexity of life, attendant upon advancing civilization, have rendered necessary some retreat from the world, and man, under the refining influence of culture, has become more sensitive to publicity, so that solitude and privacy have become more essential to the individual; but modern enterprise and invention have, through invasions upon his privacy, subjected him to mental pain and distress, far greater than could be inflicted by mere bodily injury.

As the interest in privacy and fears about invasions of privacy have increased in this century, many writers have amplified this theme, stressing the necessity of privacy for individual dignity and tranquility, for emotional release, for intellectual growth and artistic creativity, for the sharing of intimate facts in relationships of love and friendship, and for the effective working of private and public organizations.


Human Rights Law | Law | Privacy Law