Keeping Tabs: Data & Surveillance in America

BackStory

An enumerator interviews a woman for the 1940 census. Source: National Archives

An enumerator interviews a woman for the 1940 census. Source: National Archives

In June, we learned that the NSA has been collecting data on millions of American’s phone calls, and tapping into data gathered by tech companies like Google and Yahoo. The revelations set off another round of debate over the scope of personal privacy in a democratic republic like ours, and the means by which the government “keeps tabs” on citizens. So in this episode, the American History Guys explore the changing ways we’ve collected information on each other – and when it crosses from something necessary, into something invasive.

From early attempts to determine people’s credit rating to the accumulation of data about Americans’ “racial purity,” the Guys and their guests look at how, and why, Americans have kept tabs on each other, and consider how earlier generations balanced the need-to-know with expectations of privacy.

More from BackStory >>