We learned on Tuesday that three billion Yahoo email accounts were compromised in 2013. In early September, it was Equifax’s 143 million credit reports. Just a few months before that, we learned 198 million United States voter records were leaked online in June.
Given the constant stream of breaches, it can be hard to understand what’s happening to our privacy over time. Two dates — one recent and one long ago — help explain this: Dec. 15, 1890, and May 23, 2017, are the two most important days in the history of privacy. The first signifies its creation as a legal concept, and the latter, while largely overlooked at the time, symbolizes something close to its end.