On Privacy

On Privacy - the watching eyeWe often think about privacy in terms of “a right” unless we are in the public eye. Having some notoriety certainly can change expectations on how much is possible. Will we be able to keep a part of our life anonymous and self contained to the degree we feel comfortable?

The rapid development of communication technology has made this a valid concern. Well known figures in any profession, but especially the entertainment world and politics, have to deal with these questions as they become more noticeable foci’s open to world wide attention. Many have resented the intrusions into their lives. Although public people may feel the invasion more intensely, we all have to face issues of privacy. The degree of our personal experience will be determined by:

1) How we define Public?

2) Our ability in maintaining a level of control over how quickly and how much information about us becomes known.

3) Our actions as a display of the extent of information that is revealed, and

4) The degree we view our thoughts as part of that privacy.

In a previous essay (On Thoughts And Actions), I proposed that thoughts were actions on some subtler but inter-connected plane and the difference between the two is more dependent on the boundaries of the five senses. The issue of privacy takes on a different dimension if thoughts are no longer as internally controlled as we thought they were. This would be a disconcerting notion for many who consider thoughts private. However each can predicate, affect and influence each other as well as being a clear indicator of how we perceive who and what we are.

As we become more independent in our actions, we are constantly subjected to situations that place us in conflict over the desire to keep an aspect of ourselves compartmentalized. In relationships, it certainly is a reasonable concern when it comes to making ourselves vulnerable for the first time to someone we don’t know well.

One situation that compromises the privacy of most adults, which comes closest to the issues that public figures may face, is jury duty. If we are called to the stand and questioned by the defense or the prosecution to be considered a juror, they can, depending on the nature of the trial, ask us anything they want. Our privacy is decided by the presiding judge.

We may be asked questions about our personal life, our professional and financial status, even sexuality and our views on subjects we might not ordinarily like to reveal publicly in front of what is often a packed courtroom. Although this is not broadcast around the world, it’s still a public venue.

On Privacy - small houseOn the other hand, it is recognized that in order to provide a fair trial to an accused, the opinions and “personality profile” of a person being considered to serve as a juror is fair game for either prosecution or defense to explore. We can rationalize it as a civic responsibility and convince ourselves it is necessary in a free society that has committed, on paper at least, to provide a fair trial. It doesn’t mean we have to like it or feel comfortable with it.

If we are called to testify in a trial as a witness to a crime by either defense or prosecution, we are often asked our address for the record, again in front of a packed courtroom which may contain just about anyone. This is certainly a compromise of our privacy.

Security is often associated with privacy because it defines our ability to protect ourselves from what has become an increasingly uncertain world where people we don’t know can have almost unlimited access to our movements.

Whether we are famous or not, we still have to deal with the issue of privacy and find some way to deal with the external as well as internal conflicts that arise when faced with any situation where our privacy and our ability to control it is compromised.