OneTrust_Square Banner_300x250_DD_ROS_01_19
I Don't Know Which Will Go First—Rock 'n Roll or Privacy

"We're more popular than Jesus now. I don't know which will go first, rock 'n roll or Christianity." John Lennon

In an otherwise rambling, drunken session at Elektra Studios in 1969, the Doors recorded a blues-backed jam called “Rock is Dead.” Jim Morrison’s Nietzsche-influenced rant on rock’s death has been repeated by other musicians, reviewers and record store employees countless times. Punk is dead. Grunge is dead. Hip hop? Yeah, that too.

But the phrase is not particular to the modern music tradition. In 2010, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg was skewered for saying this during a video interview:

People have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people. That social norm is just something that has evolved over time... But we viewed that as a really important thing, to always keep a beginner's mind and what would we do if we were starting the company now and we decided that these would be the social norms now and we just went for it.

At the time, Switched—now part of Huffpost Tech—led with the headline, “Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg Claims Privacy is Dead.

A little more than a decade earlier, in 1999, Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy famously quipped to reporters, “You have zero privacy anyway…Get over it.”

That same year, in the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada’s annual report, Commissioner Bruce Phillips concluded,

“Is privacy dead? Assuredly it is struggling, but struggle is the eternal and unchanging fate of all freedoms. Freedoms, once lost, can only be regained at the cost of great effort and pain. None can say with certainty that freedom will not be lost here. But if freedom survives at all, so too will privacy, because by definition freedom cannot exist without the right to a life free of surveillance and regimentation. This struggle is far from finished. To paraphrase the American naval hero John Paul Jones, we have just begun to fight.”

Surely, that fight continues.

Especially in light of what some are calling the “Summer of Snowden,” which has brought on a whole new chorus of reports, blogs and posts exclaiming the death knell of privacy. (Just do a Google search for “privacy is dead” and you’ll see what I mean.)

Privacy is fickle. It’s difficult to define—we’ve posted on this before. And clearly social norms around privacy are constantly changing. Technology is changing and our world is changing. But some things stay the same.

Take this Newsweek cover story from 1970, for example. With an onslaught of snoops, bugs, wiretaps, dossiers, data banks and “electric computers,” and with a proliferation of denial of credit incidents, “the elemental right to privacy stands in serious danger—where some concerned Americans are in fact asking whether it may not be dying.”

(You can read the whole thing for yourself by clicking on the thumbnails below.)



Plus, the report, in some respects, espouses eerily similar privacy concerns still debated to this day. True, much of the privacy concerns reported in the article relate to the then unregulated credit reporting industry—but it is reminiscent of similar calls now by the FTC and privacy advocates to regulate the data brokerage industry.

Rapidly changing technology, like today, was a huge driver in the 1970 article. “The traditional, largely unarticulated Anglo-American notion of privacy has been threatened repeatedly since World War II,” the article states, “not because Big Brother has been getting surlier but because the technology has been getting more acrobatic.” Okay, so surly and acrobatic may not be words we may use to describe the NSA’s surveillance programs or the rise in predictive analytics today, but the rise in technology—whether mainframe computers or the modern Internet—has many exclaiming we’re at privacy’s Armageddon.

The article also quotes Harvard University Prof. Charles Fried. “The idea that privacy can’t be invaded at all is utopian,” he said. “There are amounts and kinds of information which previously were not given out and suddenly they have to be given out. People adjust their behavior and conceptions accordingly.” Changing social norms? Sound familiar?

“The central question is whether Americans have been pushed and cajoled into changing their behavior and conceptions too much too soon for their own good—whether they have succumbed too pliantly to the debatable charms of wire-taps, in-depth questionnaires and other up-to-date invaders of the body private,” the article’s author Richard Boeth wrote.

Can’t this same question be asked today? Wire-tapping? Well, we have the NSA. In-depth questionnaires? Could these be the primordial version of checking social networks before hiring a job candidate?

Even Ralph Nader talks about separating individual names from data sets. I was instantly reminded of our modern de-identification debates.

What we considered private 30 years ago, or even 10 years ago, in some instances has changed. I think The Onion really taps into how younger generations will help rewrite the rules of social normalcy. Take this "report," for example, on how every potential 2040 presidential candidate is already unelectable due to unwise Facebook posts.

Report: Every Potential 2040 President Already Unelectable Due To Facebook

So, is privacy dead? Well, rock ‘n roll certainly didn’t die after 1969, it just changed a bit.

I’m sure privacy will live on as well, even if it’s in a slightly different form.

Written By

Jedidiah Bracy, CIPP/E, CIPP/US


If you want to comment on this post, you need to login.


Board of Directors

See the esteemed group of leaders shaping the future of the IAPP.

Contact Us

Need someone to talk to? We’re here for you.

IAPP Staff

Looking for someone specific? Visit the staff directory.

Learn more about the IAPP»

Daily Dashboard

The day’s top stories from around the world

Privacy Perspectives

Where the real conversations in privacy happen

The Privacy Advisor

Original reporting and feature articles on the latest privacy developments

Privacy Tracker

Alerts and legal analysis of legislative trends

Privacy Tech

Exploring the technology of privacy

Canada Dashboard Digest

A roundup of the top Canadian privacy news

Europe Data Protection Digest

A roundup of the top European data protection news

Asia-Pacific Dashboard Digest

A roundup of the top privacy news from the Asia-Pacific region

Latin America Dashboard Digest

A roundup of the top privacy news from Latin America

IAPP Westin Research Center

Original works. Groundbreaking research. Emerging scholars.

Get more News »

IAPP Communities

Meet locally with privacy pros, dive deep into specialized topics or connect over common interests. Find your Community in KnowledgeNet Chapters, Sections and Affinity Groups.

IAPP Job Board

Looking for a new challenge, or need to hire your next privacy pro? The IAPP Job Board is the answer.

Join the Privacy List

Have ideas? Need advice? Subscribe to the Privacy List. It’s crowdsourcing, with an exceptional crowd.

Find a KnowledgeNet Chapter Near You

Talk privacy and network with local members at IAPP KnowledgeNet Chapter meetings, taking place worldwide.

Find more ways to Connect »

Find a Privacy Training Class

Two-day privacy training classes are held around the world. See the complete schedule now.

The Privacy Core™ Library Has Evolved

Privacy Core™ e-learning essentials just expanded to include seven new units for marketers. Keep your data safe and your staff in the know!

Online Privacy Training

Build your knowledge. The privacy know-how you need is just a click away.

Upcoming Web Conferences

See our list of upcoming web conferences. Just log on, listen in and learn!

Train Your Team

Get your team up to speed on privacy by bringing IAPP training to your organization.

Let’s Get You DPO Ready

There’s no better time to train than right now! We have all the resources you need to meet the challenges of the GDPR.

Learn more »

CIPP Certification

The global standard for the go-to person for privacy laws, regulations and frameworks

CIPM Certification

The first and only privacy certification for professionals who manage day-to-day operations

CIPT Certification

The industry benchmark for IT professionals worldwide to validate their knowledge of privacy requirements

FIP Designation

Recognizing the advanced knowledge and issue-spotting skills a privacy pro must attain in today’s complex world of data privacy.

Certify Your Staff

Find out how you can bring the world’s only globally recognized privacy certification to a group in your organization.


The IAPP’S CIPP/E and CIPM are the ANSI/ISO-accredited, industry-recognized combination for DPO readiness. Learn more today.

Learn more about IAPP certification »

Are You Ready for the GDPR?

Check out the IAPP's EU Data Protection Reform page for all the tools and resources you need.

IAPP-OneTrust PIA Platform

New U.S. Government Agency privacy impact assessments - free to IAPP members!

IAPP Communities

Meet locally with privacy pros, dive deep into specialized topics or connect over common interests. Find your Community in KnowledgeNet Chapters, Sections and Affinity Groups.

Privacy Vendor List

Find a privacy vendor to meet your needs with our filterable list of global service providers.

More Resources »

Europe Data Protection Intensive 2017

The Intensive is sold out! But cancellations do happen—so hurry and get on the wait list in case more seats become available.

Global Privacy Summit 2017

The world’s premier privacy conference returns with the sharpest minds, unparalleled programs and preeminent networking opportunities.

Canada Privacy Symposium 2017

The Symposium returns to Toronto this spring and registration has opened! Take advantage of Early Bird rates and join your fellow privacy pros for another stellar program.

The Privacy Bar Section Forum 2017

The Privacy Bar Section Forum returns to Washington, DC April 21, delivering renowned keynote speakers and a distinguished panel of legal and privacy experts.

Asia Privacy Forum 2017

The Forum returns to Singapore for exclusive networking and intensive education on data protection trends and challenges in the Asia Pacific region. Call for Speakers open!

Privacy. Security. Risk. 2017

This year, we're bringing P.S.R. to San Diego. The Call for Speakers is now open. Submit today and be a part of something big! Submission deadline: February 26.

Europe Data Protection Congress 2017

European policy debate, multi-level strategic thinking and thought-provoking discussion. The Call for Speakers is open until March 19.

Sponsor an Event

Increase visibility for your organization—check out sponsorship opportunities today.

More Conferences »

Become a Member

Start taking advantage of the many IAPP member benefits today

Corporate Members

See our list of high-profile corporate members—and find out why you should become one, too

Renew Your Membership

Don’t miss out for a minute—continue accessing your benefits

Join the IAPP»