Tuesday, December 1, 2009
I recently touched on the topic of privacy without expanding much. That particular blurb was inspired by a story I had heard on NPR about a small village that had posted cameras on the only roads leading into and out of town as part of a plan to thwart auto theft.
Naturally, in that small village, there was an outcry from those citizens who felt victimized by a perceived loss of privacy. Had I written more expansively, I would have pointed out that those same people already have their locations registered if not tracked on a regular basis by the cameras at banks, stores, gas stations, and parking garages. Every time they use a credit or debit card they leave a geographic trail as well as a pattern of consumption. And as we all know, their internet habits form a record that can be mined to assemble a rich and detailed picture of their personal interests and activities.
Most importantly, today's cell phones are like beacons that can be plotted through space and time to reconstruct the owners movements with alarming accuracy. In this respect, a new camera in a tree on the road out of town is hardly an infringement. People just like to cry victim.
I was prompted to come back and write more on privacy because I have heard too many times over the past few days that the people have "a right to know" what happened to Tiger Woods the other day.
No they don't.
The argument is that "he leads a public life" and has "made millions off his fame" so volunteering details is the price he must pay. Actually, having the media dig up details about his private life is the price he must pay, and he has been paying it for his entire adult existence. He needs not volunteer a thing and no one has a right to know.
I understand that people are curious but the claim of a "right to know" is the opposite of the "right to privacy" that began this post. Here's how I see it: First and foremost, we all have a right to privacy. However, we need to be realistic about how most of us have already (voluntarily) undermined those rights by carrying cell phones and using the internet. I think many fear losing a level of privacy that they have probably already forfeited.
Posted by Dennis Fortier at 9:30 AM