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Privacy is the ability of an individual or group to seclude themselves or information about themselves and thereby reveal themselves selectively.


  • We are rapidly entering the age of no privacy, where everyone is open to surveillance at all times; where there are no secrets from government.
  • The saint and poet seek privacy to ends the most public and universal: and it is the secret of culture, to interest the man more in his public, than in his private quality.
  • There is a sacred realm of privacy for every man and woman where he makes his choices and decisions—a realm of his own essential rights and liberties into which the law, generally speaking, must not intrude.
  • Every man should know that his conversations, his correspondence, and his personal life are private. I have urged Congress—except when the Nation's security is at stake—to take action to that end.
    • Lyndon B. Johnson, remarks at the swearing-in of Ramsey Clark as attorney general (March 10, 1967; in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1967, book 1, p. 313.)
  • Who could deny that privacy is a jewel? It has always been the mark of privilege, the distinguishing feature of a truly urbane culture. Out of the cave, the tribal tepee, the pueblo, the community fortress, man emerged to build himself a house of his own with a shelter in it for himself and his diversions. Every age has seen it so. The poor might have to huddle together in cities for need’s sake, and the frontiersman cling to his neighbors for the sake of protection. But in each civilization, as it advanced, those who could afford it chose the luxury of a withdrawing-place.
  • Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. The savage's whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men.
  • Gentlemen do not read each other's mail.
    • Henry L. Stimson, reported in Stimson and McGeorge Bundy, On Active Service in Peace and War (1948), p. 188; David Kahn, The Codebreakers (1967), p. 360. This was Stimson's justification for closing the Department of State's code-breaking office, the so-called Black Chamber, in 1929.
  • Privacy is a luxury; to buy it you need to be able to buy space and fit locks, to switch off the phone and live without fear of dependency on others. Privacy is a peculiarly twentieth-century concept, an artefact of the Western urban middle classes: Before then, only the super rich could afford it, and since the invention of e-mail and the mobile phone, it has largely slipped away.
  • For what reason have I this vast range and circuit, some square miles of unfrequented forest, for my privacy, abandoned to me by men? My nearest neighbor is a mile distant, and no house is visible from any place but the hill-tops within half a mile of my own. I have my horizon bounded by woods all to myself; a distant view of the railroad where it touches the pond on the one hand, and of the fence which skirts the woodland road on the other. But for the most part it is as solitary where I live as on the prairies. It is as much Asia or Africa as New England. I have, as it were, my own sun and moon and stars, and a little world all to myself.

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