A birth certificate documents the arrival of a newborn member of our society and a certificate of death his exit. The marriage will be recorded, perhaps to become an issue later if the marriage is dissolved. A related characteristic of the written record is that it is transferable ; indeed, it may have a career quite independent from that of the person to whom it refers. The compiling of written records, then, raises problems and issues about the flow of information regarding people that are quite different from those raised by other means of communication. The most important problem raised by the existence of massive recordkeeping systems concerns the appropriate balance between the need for information on individuals as a means to rational decision-making about them, and the often contrasting needs and rights of the individuals themselves. The same lack of concern is found in the social science literature, even from a theoretical perspective.