Monday, December 20, 2010

Secrecy Is Not Privacy

And discretion isn't either one.

We're mixing discussion, these days (though when did we not?). Wikileaks seems to be bringing a lot of fears into the open... both real and imagined. But we do need to keep our discussions to their topics.

We've also a lot of unexamined assumptions running around: "Governments need secrecy." "Privacy is a right." Well, maybe, but explain to me just why governments need secrecy; tell me exactly where this right of privacy beings and ends.

Though people have told me that Wikileaks has caused a great deal of damage by making mincemeat of government privacy, no one has yet to show me where. Though I can point to a Constitutional right protecting against unreasonable search (something of a right to privacy), I am uncertain whether the publishing of a picture of me taken on the street invades my privacy (in law, it does not).

It may prove that Wikileaks' greatest impact will be in forcing governments to examine their secrecy policies, moving to something a little more sensible and with an emphasis on discretion, not wholesale protection of information. It may prove that privacy will prove to be, in large part, the responsibility of the individual, with discretion on his or her part providing its limits and the law governing only invasive acts.

I don't know. I don't know if it will prove to be the case that Wikileaks has exposed nothing that those directly concerned didn't already know. If Wikileaks really is causing damage, hysteria will likely lead to increased "protection" of government documents from the public. Let's hope not. I don't know if it will prove to be the case that each of us, individually, spends enough time considering it to decide just where our individual privacy needs begin and end. If we rely only on government, we will end up further compromising our privacy instead of protecting it. Let's hope not.

Both of these topics deserve much more consideration that I am giving them here, of course. My point is simply that they are different. One deals with groups and the wide sweep of society. The other deals with individuals and walls against the wide sweep of society.

Let's keep our considerations of them separate.

No comments: