I realize now that I appeared to be a little too zealous in my support of Posner's op-ed in my last post. This was certainly unintentional; I should have expressed more clearly and precisely what I was praising about Posner's argument.
I believe, with Posner, that electronic data-mining presents a different situation concerning privacy than does traditional wire-tapping or other activities of the kind. I believe that we cannot evaluate it solely on the basis of our previous approaches to privacy.
Data mining occurs far more than we probably realize and it will only grow. Wal-Mart has immense databases of our shopping habits and so does Amazon or The Gap or whatever. However, this state of affairs is not univocally bad. It can improve customer service, it can improve production. We must decide whether these benefits are worth re-negotiating our current notion of privacy.
I'm just arguing against a knee-jerk "1984 is here" attitude. Books published in the 1940s and the mentality accompanying them should not be the basis of our thinking or our reactions to contemporary phenomena and issues.