Ten years ago, in 1995, the European Parliament catalyzed world-wide interest
in the subject of consumer privacy protection by passing a law known as Directive
95/46 EC. This law affords broad protections of citizens’ rights to privacy
in myriad forms, including Speech Privacy.
In Europe, following the atrocities of World War II, privacy was enshrined
as a fundamental human right. For example, the German Constitution explicitly
defines and protects a citizen’s right to privacy. No such right is explicit
in the U.S. Constitution or Bill of Rights. However, there has been general
agreement by Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court for five decades that the U.S.
Constitution contains an implied right privacy.
Owing to the nature of the now ten-year-old European statute of 1995 (2005
is the 10th anniversary of the passage of this law), most westward facing nations
around the globe quickly adopted similar privacy protection laws. In addition,
in countries such as the U.S. and Canada, States and Provinces have passed their
own more stringent privacy protection statutes*. For example, since 1999, California
has passed over 50 consumer privacy protection laws and also appointed a State-wide
Privacy Commissioner (the first such officer in the USA), adopting a practice
already in use in Canada where each Province has its own Commissioner of Privacy,
each of whom is linked to Canada’s National Privacy Commissioner in Ottawa.
Privacy protection laws come at a time of growing and often alarming intrusion
into peoples’ lives. These intrusions have taken several new forms including:
- Novel, technology-based, organized crimes such as Identity Theft
- Dramatically heightened concern amongst most governments about security
in the wake of terrorist attacks such as the 9/11/01 attacks which destroyed
the World Trade Center towers in New York City and destruction of portions
of the Pentagon in Washington, DC. This heightened concern has already led
to governmental abuses of basic human rights in several countries.
Many privacy protection laws explicitly or implicitly protect Speech Privacy,
which is a field that owes its existence to acoustical scientists. The Pioneering
work in this field was done at Bolt Beranek and Newman in 1955 under the leadership
of Bill Cavanaugh and others.
For the past 50 years (2005 being the fiftieth anniversary year) work on Speech
Privacy has progressed steadily and under the auspices of government agencies
and research facilities at leading universities in the USA, Canada, Britain
and the European Union.
“Speech Privacy” is formally defined by standard ANSI T.1-523-2001.
And it is further interpreted and translated into practice by a number of other,
related standards, such as ASTM E1130 and others.
Presently, enforcement of the Speech Privacy provisions of privacy laws is
severely constrained because:
1. Legislators, courts, regulators, enforcement agencies and private organizations
are unfamiliar with the science, standards, technologies and professional methods
available to measure, monitor, mitigate and certify Speech Privacy.
2. Professional societies like ASA, INCE and NCAC have not formulated profession-wide,
uniform guidelines that enable legislators, courts, regulators and enforcement
agencies and affected organizations to enforce, comply with or adjudicate Speech
The TCAA/N Joint Subcommittee on Speech Privacy in Buildings was formed to
meet this need and to communicate with members of the acoustics profession,
with other professions such as the ALA, AHA and AIA, with legislators and courts,
with human rights groups, with regulatory agencies, and with affected private
and public sector organizations that seek guidance on how to enforce or comply
with privacy protection laws.
*In the USA, many recent federal laws affect privacy including the Privacy Act,
Homeland Security, the Patriot Act, FIPA, FCRA, HIPAA and GLBA. These federal
laws are supplemented by sometimes more stringent state consumer privacy protection
laws, such as the fifty new privacy laws passed in California since 1999. Two
U.S. national privacy protection laws are:
HIPAA (passed in 1996, implemented in 2004; 2006 is the 10th anniversary
of the passage of this law). HIPAA applies to any organization that handles
citizens’ Personal Healthcare Information (medical records, insurance,
GLBA (passed in 1999, implemented in 2004). This law applies to any
organization that handles citizens’ Personal Financial Information (credit
cards, bank information, accounting statements, etc.)
In Canada (as in most other countries), one uniform federal privacy protection
law was passed. The Canadian law, known as PIPEDA, is enforced by Canada’s
National Privacy Commissioner. This statute is supported by separate Provincial
privacy laws that are enforced at the Provincial level by each Province’s