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American society keeps vast records on its members. From birth to death, the various organizations through which a person passes record much about his achievements and failings, his strengths and weaknesses. These files are often used to make crucial decisions regarding an individual, and thus may have a fateful impact on his life. Yet, despite the importance of record-keeping, there have been few objective analyses of how this process is conducted.
On Record provides descriptive accounts of record-keeping in.a variety of important organizations: schools and universities; consumer credit agencies, general business organizations, and life insurance companies; military and security agencies; the Census Bureau and the Social Security Administration; public welfare agencies, juvenile courts, and mental hospitals. It also examines the legal status of records.
The authors address questions such as: Who determines what records are kept? Who has access to the records? To what extent do the records follow an individual after he has left the setting in which they were gathered? What are some of the dangers and pitfalls in record-keeping? Throughout the authors show a concern for an appropriate balance between the need for information about people and protection against undue invasions of privacy.