We are finding more and more that it’s in the comments sections of websites where you find the gems of wisdom, not the actual articles. Reddit is a perfect example of this, it’s ALL about the comments on Reddit.
Reading an article today on the Guardian UK website about another Edward Snowden leak detailing that the NSA spied on Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International members, it reminds one of the fact that the FBI spied on Martin Luther King, Jr. in the hopes of uncovering embarrassing information that they could use to blackmail him into shutting up. (You can read more about it on page 1953 [don’t worry, it’s not 1953 pages long!] of Neil M. Richards’ Symposium Article The Dangers of Surveillance over at the Harvard Law Review website. PDF.)
Then we scanned the comments section where we read a great response to the same ol’ question everyone seems to be regurgitating time and time again.. WHY DO WE NEED PRIVACY IN THE FIRST PLACE?
Why is privacy important?
Some theorists depict privacy as a basic human good or right that’s value is intrinsic. They see privacy as being objectively valuable in itself, as an essential component of human flourishing or well-being. The more common view is that privacy is valuable because it facilitates or promotes other fundamental values including ideals of personhood such as:
• Personal autonomy (the ability to make personal decisions)
• Worth as human beings
Privacy allows us to make our own decisions free from coercion, to totally be oneself and potentially engage in behavior that might deviate from social norms. It allows us the time and space for self-evaluation. Informational privacy is seen as enhancing individual autonomy by allowing individuals control over who may access different parts of their personal information. It also allows people to maintain their dignity, to keep some aspect of their life or behavior to themselves simply because it would be embarrassing for other people to know about it.
Privacy also allows people to protect their assets or to avoid sharing information with others who would use it against them, such as discrimination by employers, educators, or insurers. The ability to control one’s information has value even in the absence of any shameful or embarrassing or other tangibly harmful circumstances.
Privacy is also required for developing interpersonal relationships with others. While some emphasize the need for privacy to establish intimate relationships, others take a broader view of privacy as being necessary to maintain a variety of social relationships.
By giving us the ability to control who knows what about us and who has access to us, privacy allows us to alter our behavior with different people so that we may maintain and control our various social relationships. For example, people may share different information with their boss than they would with their doctor, as appropriate with their different relationships.
Most discussions on the value of privacy focus on its importance to the individual. Privacy can be seen, however, as also having value to society as a whole. Privacy furthers the existence of a free society. Large databases, potential national identifiers and wide-scale surveillance, can be seen as threatening not only individual rights or interests but also the nature of our society. For example, preserving privacy from wide-spread surveillance can be seen as protecting not only the individual’s private sphere, but also society as a whole: privacy contributes to the maintenance of the type of society in which we want to live.
In short, society is better off when privacy exists.
You can catch the rest of the conversation over at the Guardian Website.