Why do we need privacy? Surveillance and Privacy from Government4/11/2001; 11:38:36 AM This typical article on why we really don't need privacy is fairly uninteresting as is. The comments at the bottom are much more interesting. I think this one is particularly good.I'm noticing several commonalities in all anti-privacy articles:
- Inevitable conflating of government versus corporate privacy. Am I the only one to make the distinction? They're two totally different things. This article is mostly about government privacy, but does make reference to Microsoft's Windows licensing mechanisms. This allows the anti-privacy proponent to do what I think of as Dancing with the argument. By conflating two things A and B, when I argue against B, you can pull out arguments in favor of A, and when I argue against A, you can pull out arguments in favor of B, and if the listener is similarly confused, you can get away with never having to actually directly refute any arguments, because you can just "dance" to whichever part of the argument is currently in your favor.Government privacy and corporate privacy are two different things. I have a very hardline stance on corporate privacy. I consider it trivially obvious that the government will have to have more power. (Of course, that only implies that the government must have total power to those who have a black or white, "all power" or "no power", view of the world. There's still much room for debate about how much power the government should have.)
- People just want privacy so they can hide crimes. I think the comment I linked to above, Privacy means freedom from harassment, is on a right track, but I think it goes beyond that issue to a fundamental principle that the American government system is predicated on: Balance of power. By dismissing the right to privacy in this manner, we are transferring unprecedented amounts of power to the authorities to do whatever they please to us in the name of law enforcement. If you can't come up with your own examples of how this power could be abused, if you think the protections against unreasonable search and seizure don't have a good reason to exist (it's the same reason for privacy), I won't convince you anyhow. Note this argument is useful only for government debates and should not be used at all for corporate privacy.
- It is vitally important to catch crimes, by implication trumping any right to privacy. I would however point out that the truly vitally important thing is to not unjustly imprison innocent people; that's another American ideal, and it's getting more important, not less.May I also point out there's another power issue here, because this argument tends to assume that what the government defines as "crime" is a fair definition. It also blithely assumes that the definition will always be good. The power of a government to see is the power of the government to criminalize, so by removing privacy, we are giving our government the power to do whatever it wants. (Remember, it's not "unAmerican" to question our government, it's "unAmerican" to trust it!)