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The Politics of Personal Information: Surveillance, Privacy, and Power in West Germany

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The Politics of Personal Information

Surveillance, Privacy, and Power in West Germany

Larry Frohman

454 pages, 13 illus., bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78920-946-4 $149.00/£110.00 Hb Not Yet Published (December 2020)

eISBN 978-1-78920-947-1 eBook Not Yet Published

Hb View cartYour country: United States - Click here to remove geolocation   Recommend to your Library Available in GOBI®


“This book unites disparate episodes in West German history into a careful and illuminating exploration of Germans’ attitudes toward the privacy of their own personal data, the changing implications for those attitudes as technological capacity expands, and the very conception of governmentality as the state inescapably can see more and more into the intimate lives of its citizens.” • Kenneth Ledford, Case Western Reserve University

“Frohman has done a truly masterful job of capturing the debates around privacy and surveillance, demonstrating with the help of the West German case how these concepts have evolved alongside information technologies. For those looking for a path forward, a way out of the panopticon or Big Brother’s grasp, the book’s most vital contribution is its use of privacy not only to theorize the information state but to actively contest the new forms of power that state pursues.” • Karrin Hanshew, Michigan State University


In the 1970s and 1980s West Germany was a pioneer in both the use of the new information technologies for population surveillance and the adoption of privacy protection legislation. During this era of cultural change and political polarization, the expansion, bureaucratization, and computerization of population surveillance disrupted the norms that had governed the exchange and use of personal information in earlier decades and gave rise to a set of distinctly postindustrial social conflicts centered on the use of personal information as a means of social governance in the welfare state. Combining vast archival research with a groundbreaking theoretical analysis, this book gives a definitive account of the politics of personal information in West Germany at the dawn of the information society.

Larry Frohman is an Associate Professor of History at the State University of New York. He is the author of Poor Relief and Welfare in Germany from the Reformation to World War I (Cambridge University Press, 2008), along with a series of articles on the welfare state.

Subject: History: 20th Century to Present
Area: Germany


List of Illustrations
List of Abbreviations

Introduction: Surveillance, Privacy, and Power in the Information Society

Part I: Population Registration, Power, and Privacy

Chapter 1. The Federal Population Registration, Administrative Power, and the Politicization of Privacy

Part II: Negotiating Communicative Norms in the Computer Age:  The Information Question and the Federal Privacy Protection Law, 1970–1990

Chapter 2. Rethinking Privacy in the Age of the Mainframe:  From the Private Sphere to Informational Self-Determination
Chapter 3. The Legislative Path to the Federal Privacy Protection Law, 1970-77
Chapter 4. “Only Sheep Let Themselves Be Counted”:  The 1983/87 Census Boycotts, the Census Decision, and the Question of Statistical Governance
Chapter 5. Out of the Frying Pan and into the Fire:  The Census Decision, Party Politics, and the Revision of the Federal Privacy Protection Law

Part III: The Precautionary Turn:  Security, Surveillance, and the Changing Nature of the State

Chapter 6. Paper, Power, and Policing:  The Federal Criminal Police on the Cusp of the Computer Age
Chapter 7. The Quest for Security and the Meaning of Privacy:  Computers, Networks, and the Securitization of Space, Place, Movement, and Identity
Chapter 8. Mapping the Radical Milieu:  Terrorism, Counterterrorism, and the New Police Surveillance
Chapter 9. The Reform of Police Law:  Datenschutz, the Defense of Law, and the Debate over Precautionary Surveillance


Selected Bibliography

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