According to his family, Alan F. Westin died at the age of 83 in Saddle River, New Jersey last Monday. His family said Westin passed away from cancer. Westin is known for his legal work that helped to define the right to privacy in the computer age, according to the New York Times.
Westin was emeritus professor of public law at Columbia at the time of his death. He taught at the school for close to 40 years. Westin has been credited with almost single-handedly creating privacy law in the modern world with his book “Privacy and Freedom,” which was published in 1967.
“He was the most important scholar of privacy since Louis Brandeis,” Jeffrey Rosen said. Rosen works as a professor of law at George Washington University. Rosen is also the legal affairs editor of The New Republic. He talked with the New York Times via a telephone interview Thursday. “He transformed the privacy debate by defining privacy as the ability to control how much about ourselves we reveal to others.”
Lance J. Hoffman, the director of George Washington’s Cyber Security Policy and Research Institute, said, “He knew social history, and he could appreciate the directions that the technology was pushing the social contract.”
Marc Rotenberg, the executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said, “This concept became the cornerstone of our modern right to privacy. Part of ‘Privacy and Freedom’ is the argument that privacy enables freedom.”
“He insisted on a balance between the competing demands of privacy, disclosure and surveillance,” Rosen said. “Much of his work in the 1960s and ’70s appears so prescient after 9/11 and in the age of Internet.”
Westin worked as the editor in chief of The Civil Liberties Review in the decade of the 1970s, which is a publication from the American Civil Liberties Foundation. He published the newsletter Privacy & American Business between the years of 1993 to 2006.