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1775: First Postal Service instigated; no confidentiality assured. 1700s: Mail is routinely opened as it passes through the postal system.

1790: First 1782: Congress enforces postal confidentiality

national census is conducted.

1800s: The “penny press” publishes unbridled gossip about the private lives of celebrities, under the protection of the First Amendment.

1800 1791: The Bill of Rights protects 1787: The U.S. Constitution stipulates that a census be conducted once a decade. Many people regard the census with mistrust.

GIPSTEIN/CORBIS (Preamble to the Constitution); CRAIG BREWER (Bill of Rights)

freedom of speech and freedom from unreasonable search and seizure.

Timeline: Privacy in America  

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

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