Geof Stone on the Boston Bombing, Privacy and Surveillance
We live in a world of ever-shrinking individual privacy. More and more can be learned about us by friends and strangers alike by a quick search on the Internet. Businesses track our searches and our transactions and sell that information to others who can readily piece together a profile of our likes, our interests, the books we read, the movies we watch, and the names of our friends. The practice of using surveillance cameras to record our comings and goings is ever-expanding, and will certainly expand still further after the Boston bombings.
A central question is whether we do - or should - care about our privacy. Critics of the right of privacy argue that people have nothing to hide if they don't do anything wrong. The right of privacy therefore protects only wrongdoing and is thus not an important social value. Even worse, they argue, the right of privacy is really nothing more than a right to deceive others about who we really are and is therefore of negative social value.
According to these critics of the right of privacy, if you don't want others to know that you were once arrested for shoplifting or had an abortion or voted for Barack Obama or bought a pornographic novel or met a former lover for a drink or have a learning disability or are gay or spent a drunken weekend in Bermuda or have saggy breasts when naked, then what you are really doing is trying to mislead others into thinking that you are a "better" person than you really are. Why, they ask, should the law protect that interest? To keep such information private from those who would think less of us if they knew the truth, they argue, is just a form of personal false advertising.