Abstract

Frames:
THE RIGHT OF PRIVACY IN FLORIDA IN THE AGE OF TECHNOLOGY AND THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY: A NEED FOR PROTECTION FROM PRIVATE and COMMERCIAL INTRUSION

BEN F. OVERTON

Copyright 1997 Florida State University Law Review

Increasingly, the citizens of this country express concern regarding the need for additional protection under the right of privacy, also known as the "right to be let alone." Recent polls reflect that eighty percent of Americans believe they have lost control over their personal information and that ninety percent favor legislation to provide additional privacy protections. These elevated rates of citizen concern are the direct result of recent sophisticated technological advances, advances which make it both cheap and easy to categorize and to track what was once thought to be private information. To properly examine how to best address these concerns, it is important to understand that Florida is one of the few states in this country to have an express right of privacy in its constitution to protect against government intrusion. Since the provision's adoption in 1980, it has become a significant part of Florida's jurisprudence.

The provision impacts the rights of free press, free speech, and the Florida constitutional and statutory provisions regarding public records and public meetings. It has been used to limit governmental intrusion into both the areas of personal decision-making and the disclosure of private information. All of these interlocking rights and applications have made the right of privacy a true legal chameleon. In the new "age of technology" or "information age" in which we now live, protecting privacy will undoubtedly become even more important to the citizens of this state.

However, it is critical to recognize that this provision protects only against intrusions by the government. It does nothing to protect citizens from intrusions by private or commercial entities. Without question, it is this latter intrusion that will present the greatest privacy challenge in the coming decade and the twenty-first century. As technology develops, more and more methods for assimilating and distributing information will likely become available. As the United States Supreme Court has recognized, an individual's interest in controlling the dissemination of personal information should "not dissolve simply because that information may be available to the public in some form." Given the current state of technology, as well as the potential for more sophisticated advancements, the time is ripe to consider taking steps that may ensure protection of our privacy into the future. Otherwise, "[p]rivacy as we know it may not exist in the next decade."

To that end, Part II of this Article addresses the concerns and challenges presented to personal privacy in the information age. Part III analyzes the development of federal and Florida constitutional privacy rights as well as civil common law actions for invasion of privacy and statutory protections. Part IV suggests solutions, including a textual addition to Florida's constitutional privacy provision to secure protection from intrusion into private spheres by non-governmental entities.


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