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Like many legal systems around the world, the American system protects the "right to privacy," or, as Samuel Warren and Louis Brandeis famously put it, the "right to be let alone." Although Warren and Brandeis's formulation has profoundly influenced privacy law, a moment of thought reveals that most of us do not wish to be entirely "let alone." An individual wholly surrounded by a cocoon of solitude—for instance, the Russian mathematician whodeclined the equivalent of a Nobel Prize because he preferred to remain secluded in his mother's St. Petersburg home—is a rarity (and usually at least somewhat of an oddity). Although we do not want our homes or property to be open for inspection at all times we usually want the police to be able to come in and take a look when we have been victims of a burglary.

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