The notion of privacy died with, well, the invention of society. We have this illusion that somehow we are protected by inalienable rights that prevent people from finding out information about our little worlds. I recently had someone write a check using my name and address, both freely available on the Internet and in a phone book or two (not to mention the hundreds of forms I’ve filled out in my life). I’m not out any money (so far), but it proves a point. Privacy, unless you live in a cave, is a difficult thing to maintain.
That said, I don’t think people should be rooting around digging up information on people. Nor do I think that the government should be routinely scanning my search records in the hope that they might glean some bit of information to protect “national security” (not that there’s anything to find).
But what really annoys me are the people who stand there and say privacy is unimportant and then get upset when their privacy is invaded. Justice Scalia is a stanch anti-privacy judge who said “Every single datum about my life is private? That’s silly.”
Of course, he didn’t realize how much of his (and most pubic figures) life was available on the Internet. A law professor assigned his class project to create a dossier on Scalia. And they did so with a gusto, gathering up information like his movie habits, food favorites, his home address, and other bits of information. Let’s just say that Scalia was unhappy. Suddenly his privacy had been invaded. He issued a rather pissy statement saying “Professor Reidenberg’s exercise is an example of perfectly legal, abominably poor judgment. Since he was not teaching a course in judgment, I presume he felt no responsibility to display any”. So as long as his privacy is respected, everything is okay, but when you invade his it’s poor judgment.
Then there’s the case of the Portland Oregon Willamette Weekly article on police rifling through peoples garbage. Mark McDonnell (Portland Prosecutor), Police Chief Mark Kroeker, and (then) Mayor Vera Katz all believed that , al least until their garbarge was ransacked. Then Kroeker and Katz became upset and felt it was an invasion of their privacy. So when the government does it, it’s legal, but when a private organization does it, it’s not. I wonder if that applies to the individual as well. Could I, as a constituent rummage through my representatives garbage? Maybe not.
But the point of this is two fold. One, there is no privacy for most of us. Someone can look up my information in public records. I’m sure my social security number is written on a public document somewhere or published on the Internet. Two, politicians can’t expect special treatment because they are “in power”. They are as vulnerable as any of us, they just need to accept that.
Now I’m going to go google my neighbors name before I rummage through the trash. Where did I put my gloves?