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TIMELINE

Privacy in America

, 1600–2008

SOCIAL LIFE AND TECHNOLOGY 1600s : The clergy, who keep records of births, marriages and deaths, cast an ever widening net for information about civic affairs. In Massachusetts, “tythingmen,” or government watchdogs, inspect households for proper moral conduct.

Massachusetts Bay Colony Grant

1700s: Very little pri-

1629: Massachusetts Bay Colony: Settlement with one of the first and best record databases on population. Information on births, marriages, deaths, wills and more was recorded.

1600

1600s : Under Puritan rules, it is a civic duty to keep an eye on your neighbor. In many towns, people are forbidden to live alone.

Boston

vacy exists within house-holds; family members and even guests customarily share beds.

1700

As settlements were established and more people immigrated, the church began playing a smaller role in people’s day-to-day lives. Although families lived together (affording little privacy within the home), privacy from ones surroundings was expected. Most settlers had left Europe due to persecution, and sought to live and express themselves freely, hence the demand for privacy. The new saying was, “Let every one meddle with his own business.”

1700s: Private life is seen as a haven from public turmoil. The colonists concur with the English and the Romans that “a man’s home is his castle.”

LAW AND POLICY

CREDITS: MPI/GETTY IMAGES (Puritans); LILA RUBENSTEIN (map illustration); IMAGEZOO/IMAGES.COM/CORBIS (envelope); THE GRANGER COLLECTION, NEW YORK (stamp and The Sun); TODD

Timeline: Privacy in America  

Americans paradoxically combine an unquenchable curiosity with an insistance on being left alone

Timeline: Privacy in America  

Americans paradoxically combine an unquenchable curiosity with an insistance on being left alone

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