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More than 100 years ago, long before the concept of "data" in its contemporary sense was conceived of, the French historian Alexis de Tocqueville postulated that "if the private rights of an individual are violated ...the manner of a nation" is corruputed, jeopardizing the entire society. With the advent of computerized data processing, the threats to personal privacy have multiplied in a manner undreamed of in de Tocqueville's day, and the state of technology continues to be refined at a pace far in advance of the necessarily deliberative pace of the laws passed in an attempt to deal with the problem. This text provides a snapshot in time of the contemporary state of some of these attempts in 17 representative countries, mostly in Europe, but also in North America and the Asia-Pacific region. Their stories are framed in the context of an introductory chapter on the Council of Europe Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal data, and Draft Directives in the field of data protection published by the European Community Commission.