The Importance of Privacy

Privacy & Security Posted on August 8, 2010

A man sits down to dinner. He proceeds to discuss his work and his opinion of his colleagues. He moves on to reveal personal secrets he has gleaned from intimate conversations with these same coworkers. His wife is intrigued and urges him to continue. He delves further and, at great length, shifts his monologue to his opinions of the personal lives of his friends and neighbors before candidly unveiling an embarrassing indiscretion involving a female friend that he himself recently committed. The wife is aghast, he reassures her and the conversation is abruptly halted when, at last, he informs her of the unfortunate news that he received on his most recent visit from his doctor. They hold hands and whisper words of affection. Tears are shed.

They are at home, alone and no one is privy to his words.

Were this discussion to take place in a popular (or even unpopular) restaurant, not only would unknown and uninvited ears catch all that was said but in this day and age, cameras (both surveillance and personal)), telephones, recorders and various electronic devices of unknown ownership would likely be within earshot and could easily capture all that was shared in this dialogue between two loved ones, a dialogue that almost certainly was not intended to be shared by anyone other than the woman sitting across the table from him and only reluctantly with her.

Were this conversation to take place on the train it would be the source of discomfort, shock, jaw-dropping disbelief and text messaging.
Were it to be aired in a shopping mall it would surely mutate into a nightmare of public gossip and innuendo.
Were it to be held at the workplace it would certainly be perilous and likely lead to the loss of livelihood as well as extinguish any hope of a career.

This is the nature of intimacy and the often overlooked principal of privacy.

It is, as well, a few simple but unfortunately realistic scenarios of the slow but steady erosion of our personal privacy in this high-speed, instant messaging, universally connected, digital age. As the prevalence of electronic security expands ever deeper into every aspect of our waking lives the very nature of a “private life” comes into question.

When can we expect privacy?
When should we expect privacy?
When must we expect privacy?

These are the questions which universally challenge us as the ever surging wave of cyber-communication/information/transmission gains ground just as we furiously struggle to keep our heads above the electronic water. As a society we have clearly ceded the “Public” forum and Private/State surveillance is simply a matter of fact, whether being watched by hired Store security or by sworn Police authority, there are clearly very few places where one can walk among our fellow men and still maintain a “reasonable expectation of privacy” or even the basic freedom of an unobserved life.

But if you’re not guilty, why would it bother you to be watched?

This is the regressive question asked by many, who perhaps don’t think too deeply, clearly or often, as they walk through the world on eggshells of ignorance, blissfully unaware of the pervasive dangers that lurk around every corner of our lives even for those extremely rare and naively trusting innocents.

Regardless of the fact that this naïve approach to an inherently perilous world is, at best, specious reasoning this line of thinking (or not thinking if you will) leads to the inevitable destruction of the Basic Rights and Human privileges that make us free and independent individuals.

Why should we fight for our privacy?

Because it is ours.

Because with every breath we take we deserve the Right to share or retain our carefree thoughts, our odd observations, our candid opinions, our solemn beliefs and our intimate affections. Not only do we deserve this Right but we must reserve this Right in order to maintain a successful, cooperative, progressive, free society unhindered by the pressures of the State or by the lockstep mentality to conform to a way of life that may not be of one’s own choice or inclination. Any quick study of human history can certainly inform the unconcerned, the misinformed or those willfully oblivious as to the pain and degradations that can and often do occur when Human Beings willingly or unwillingly surrender or are stripped of this Right. Illegal Search and Seizure, False imprisonment, Trial without Jury, Slavery- all of these brutal examples of inhumanity can certainly trace their origins to the basic loss of privacy, and thus, freedom as one action, or loss thereof, clearly goes hand-in-hand with the other. This basic practice of our autonomy is at the core of our humanity and it is a Right which men from every society have fought and died for since Eve shared the Apple with Adam and it certainly is absolutely one which we must continue to respect and aggressively preserve with every fiber of our strength and through every moment of our existence, ever vigilant to those who might attempt to chip away at the foundations of our freedoms and the structure of our societies. Consequently it is our duty to uphold the principles of privacy and vigorously maintain our right to a “Private Life” even as we fall back in this battle further and further as we, perhaps heedlessly, give ground to the digital forces of comfort and accessibility.

Our “private life” is our real life.

The one that we share with those we love and sometimes lose, those we live with and occasionally live without, those we build families with as we wait for our nests to empty, those we share community with as we hammer together our great fences and those few and blessed individuals that we choose to let into our lives in the sincere and hopeful belief that our fortuitous unions may create something greater than our inevitable solitude, something that will live on for future generations so that they may have the opportunity to build a more fulfilling life as they carefully choose from their multitude of paths and gratefully navigate through their wonderful worlds.

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