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The study of Physics has led to continuous development of communications technologies. We have to consider the impact of their use on people's lives.

From the invention of the printing press to the mobile phone, new communications technologies continue to change and re-shape our world. Information that was once in the hands of the few has become available to the many.

In the 16th Century people across Europe were able to have their own copies of the Bible for the first time, which pushed them to learn to read. And now in the 21st Century people can, for example

  • diagnose their medical symptoms before seeing the doctor and
  • read government documents affecting national policy-making.

However, not everyone wants the information they communicate to become public. Criminals and terrorists go to great lengths to hide their activities from the authorities. Exactly how a far does a citizen’s right to privacy extend?

This section covers:

The electric telegraph


telegraph poles at sunset

Mobile phone

Anonymous man with headphones

Keep-out signText equivalent:


There is a conflict between our right to privacy and the need others have to keep an eye on us.
Secrecy iconText equivalent:

Openness versus secrecy

Do we have the right to communicate in private, or do others have the right to know what we're up to?
Few versus many iconText equivalent:

The few vs the many

The 'need to know'. Who needs to know? The few at the expense of the many - CCTV in towns, or many at the expense of the few - open government?