Alan Westin, a groundbreaking scholar of information privacy who helped influence a generation of privacy study and the privacy profession itself, passed away Monday, February 18, at the age of 83.
“Today, literally tens of thousands of statutes, court decisions, regulations and company best practice standards, throughout the globe, are based upon” principles set forth by Westin, said friend and Arnall Golden Gregory Privacy Partner Bob Belair.
As professor emeritus of public law and government at Columbia University for more than 37 years, Westin also helped educate students of public policy and privacy beyond measure.
“He was the first to understand the implications that computer technology, as well as other kinds of automated technology, had for personal privacy,” Belair noted.
Indiana University Prof. Fred Cate told The Privacy Advisor, “Alan’s passing is especially hard to come to grips with because he was such a larger-than-life figure who not only helped to create and define the modern field of privacy law but welcomed, included and mentored so many of us who followed in his giant footsteps. I wouldn’t be in privacy law if it weren’t for Alan, and I suspect that is true–directly or indirectly–for many IAPP members.”
George Washington University Prof. Lance Hoffman said Westin “saw the tensions that today exist between privacy and freedom and individualization and all sorts of things…control, surveillance, he saw that all coming together well before almost anyone else did.”
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Alan Westin’s work was the first privacy scholarship I stumbled upon when I began my research and it was inspiring. There is no doubt that his work will inspire future generations of privacy researchers and practitioners. The best way to honor him is to acknowledge the contributions he gave to the emergence of privacy legal debates and further develop them: Alan F. Westin – Social and Political Dimensions of Privacy (G. Zanfir)