Abstract

Abstract:

This article examines the establishment of privacy in mediated communications in the United States. The Post Office Act of 1792, which transformed the informational environment by formalizing a nationwide communications network, banned letter opening, a norm that became the cornerstone of American privacy law. The article analyzes the circumstances that led to the articulation of this norm, contending that it rested on two pillars: a civic rationale that rejected government interference in personal communications, and a commercial rationale that prioritized user trust and market expansion. A comparison between the eighteenth-century discourse and current debates over digital surveillance is offered.

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Additional Information

ISSN
2166-3033
Print ISSN
2164-8034
Pages
pp. 133-158
Launched on MUSE
2019-06-04
Open Access
No
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