The purpose of this essay is to consider some characteristics ofUnited States privacy law that contribute to the obscurity of many intersections between the Internet and privacy law. This discussion is not an exhaustive catalogue of all of the ways in which United States privacy law may apply to Internet activities. Nor is it intended to be
an evaluation of the effectiveness of this privacy law. Rather, the point here is to explore why the application of privacy law to the Internet is a matter of considerable complexity and some uncertainty.
The focus is on certain characteristics of privacy law that can mislead even very smart people into believing that privacy is not here.
Both the Internet and United States privacy law operate in varied ways across many dimensions. Just as the Internet is an interconnection of digital networks that operates in multiple ways to
communicate data and other information worldwide, United States privacy law embraces many types of laws that protect and vindicate individual self-determination with regard to personal activities,
private decisions, and personal information about an individual. With regard to the Internet, a varied assortment of privacy laws function in different ways to protect and to vindicate individual control over personal activities, decisions, and information. The
complexities of the potential interactions between privacy law and the Internet may be difficult to visualize. But it is a mistake to count privacy, and the laws which protect it, as zero.
16 Santa Clara Computer & High Tech. L. J. 357 (2000)