I went down a weird road this week. I was a party last night, not a place where I thought that I would get my post for this week. After a couple of red wines, two other girls and I got to talking about our old mix tapes and how we used to record from the radio (play, record, pause!) and make these little radio shows. Nerdy, for sure.
The conversation turned to privacy, in a funny way. One friend was saying that her mom would always interrupt them to see what they were doing and end up talking on the tape in the background. We started talking about how privacy is something that we didn’t necessarily feel that we had growing up. Now more than ever, we are told that we do not have it anymore.
I had not considered privacy a human right before, in the way that my mind had sorted rights. For me, rights are these codes that we strive toward (and often, don’t achieve for others), so that we all have freedom and dignity, but also food, water and shelter. Do I need privacy to live, the same way I need food? I don’t think so. Do I expect privacy to live, the same way I expect respect and dignity? Probably.
I wanted to explore the idea of privacy as a fundamental right that we are born with (and which many parents don’t give their kids, when they read the diaries of their teenagers) and are deserving of; I want to critically consider it. So, humour me for a bit and let’s get a good old-fashioned debate on.
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
This is Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Let’s break this down so we are all on the same page.
Arbitrary: based on random choice or personal whim, rather than any reason or system.
Interference: involvement in the activities and concerns of other people when your involvement is not wanted.
I don’t know about you but I don’t consider, say, Google‘s collection of my data as random. In general, I also don’t notice this collection, so it’s not exactly interference proper, but it’s closer to that than the other. I also don’t think that a program like PRISM is random, but again, it’s likely that most people don’t want that involvement.
If a Google salesman came to my door and asked me questions about my browsing history, I might be less inclined to cooperate and more inclined to think that it’s interfering with my privacy. However, when I simply type and a little web-bot collects bits of my history that I don’t notice, it’s easy to forget about the interference that is happening. If a tree falls in the woods–or rather, if a web spider crawls around–and no one sees it, does it make a sound? Because people don’t notice these little bits of privacy being chipped away, it doesn’t hurt as much. At the end though, you are missing a piece of you. Small pieces amount to a lot over time.
I open the floor to you.