What Privacy Means: Everybody poops but that doesn’t mean you should get to see it
June 20th, 2016 by Mike Coughlin
Privacy is a tricky one. I wrote before about how this is a new generation that doesn’t care about privacy and shares any and everything. That’s true. But there’s still a real need for privacy in the world and it’s not often understood.
The most frequent argument is, “If you’re not doing anything wrong, what do you care?” Superficially, this makes sense. If the government sees you writing an Email to your aunt wishing her happy birthday, they won’t care. And if they catch you writing to your aunt plotting to blow something up, well, you were being bad! Only bad guys need to worry, see.
Except there are plenty of things we do that aren’t illegal, immortal (I’m leaving the typo in because it makes me laugh), or bad in any way that you don’t want the world to see. Ever have sex? You probably don’t want that shown everywhere (if you do, get in touch). Ever sit on the couch and stuff yourself for 14 hours while watching Netflix? You look pathetic. Ever written an Email about an ex? Snowden showed with his leaks that the NSA had people looking into their ex’s Emails because of course they did, that’s human nature. We’ll abuse power, even if it’s something minor like looking at an ex from a thousand miles away.
But here’s the big one: ever taken a shit? Yeah, me too. In fact, I do it every single day. Sometimes (always) more than once. Hell, I can’t even help it. Try as I might, that fecal afterbirth is coming out. Shitting and pissing may be the two most natural acts in all of humanity. Babies do it, teenagers, adults, and old people pray they can do it! I did it once while writing this.
Now: do you want someone to watch you drop a deuce?
Not only are you not doing something wrong, what you’re doing goes beyond right and wrong: it is literally an action that is ultimately outside of your control. You WILL shit, no matter what you do. And if you don’t for some reason, you’ll die. That’s it.
That’s why we need privacy. It isn’t to hide all of our bad acts from the world at large, it’s to let us live our lives in peace. To scratch yourself when you want, to eat a gallon of ice cream, to laugh to yourself at the foul evil you’ve produced. We can get rid of privacy in the name of security. That’s perhaps the ultimate question that has been at the center of every power struggle between people and government throughout time. There’s always a push and pull. And those who want to eliminate more and more privacy don’t always do so maliciously. Who doesn’t want to stop terrorism? Or gang violence? Or serial killers?
But being human isn’t clean and there are things we all do to keep part of ourselves hidden away. (Well, normal people do. I leave the door open and scare people.) Just because you’re hiding something doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong.
I could throw in some ripped off line about those exchanging privacy for security deserve neither (and I just did) but no one wants to really think about it too much. Because it’ll require the conclusion that some of us will die so that the rest of us can enjoy living. Which is all well and good unless you’re one of those who dies. Or a family member of someone who dies. It isn’t that comforting to say that someone died for liberty. Liberty is almost too abstract for us to comprehend. But it does exist and it is important. I don’t want people to die (in general) but if you die, dying while living free is a good way to go.
Give me shitting or give me death.