A Facebook Post You Haven’t Seen: What If We Gave Up Our Right To Privacy?

A Facebook Post You Haven’t Seen: What If We Gave Up Our Right To Privacy?

Privacy is increasingly scarce as we ease into an Orwellian state. Most Americans are content to follow the shenanigans of pop star Justin Bieber, rather than be alarmed by our deteriorating culture. The concept of privacy has, to some extent, shifted in popular culture with the advancement of technology. The government spent decades and endless dollars trying to find a way to most effectively intrude on its citizens. Along came Facebook (and its predecessor Myspace – anyone remember Myspace?) — and now the people are doing the work for them!  People feel less inclined to keep personal matters to themselves as it has become commonplace to share the most benign — or intimate — details through “social networking.” The right to privacy hangs in the balance as the NSA and other thugs bully their way into our lives.

One man, Noah Dyer, has a proposition of self-exposure that supersedes anything that could possibly be gleamed from a Facebook wall. Dyer, an Arizona resident, contacted the Atlantic Monthly to promote a project he is trying to fund on Kickstarter entitled “A Year Without Privacy.” For one year, his every move, communication — even bank transactions — will be on full display via livestreaming. Dyer elaborates on how he views the right to privacy:

“My observation is this: in most societies we [recognize] the right of people to keep secrets. But really there’s only one purpose for keeping secrets: secrets exist to prevent other people from acting as they would if they had complete information.  I believe that the type of government and society that will persevere while other forms of government fail and are replaced, is a government that does not recognize the right to privacy, but rather says that everyone in a society has the right to perfect information, so that they can act according to their own best interest.”

Even Facebook addicts feel like they should have control over their personal information that is spread across the internet.  Not so for Mr. Dyer.  In fact, he truly believes that the right to privacy is not a right at all — but rather an impediment to a greater society for all.

The Atlantic Monthly writer that he contacted, Conor Friedersdorf, expressed his concerns about a society free of privacy.

 “I’d always imagined that if an ‘I have nothing to hide’ adherent were to give me access to their private affairs, I’d quickly be able to show them that a malign actor could wreak havoc on their lives with the information they had revealed. Since Dyer granted that he was vulnerable to information asymmetries and nevertheless opted for disclosure, I had to admit that, however foolishly, he could legitimately claim he has nothing to hide.”

“What had never occurred to me, until I sat in front of his open email account, is how objectionable I find that attitude. Every one of us is entrusted with information that our family, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances would rather that we kept private, and while there is no absolute obligation for us to comply with their wishes—there are, indeed, times when we have a moral obligation to speak out in order to defend other goods—assigning the privacy of others a value of zero is callous.”

Friedersdorf rightly points out that there would be some uncomfortable, and perhaps unintended, consequences to a life entirely unveiled.  He says in closing:

“I’ll be less reflexively dismissive next time someone tells me that they have nothing to hide. This type of unicorn does exist! But I will also understand more fully that if someone truly has “nothing to hide,” it means that they also have insufficient regard for the comfort, preferences, and desires of people who feel differently.”  (Atlantic Monthly)

However, there is more at stake here than just exposing an errant wife or a friend’s sexually transmitted disease.

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