Regarding the Mar. 1 editorial, “High court wrong on FISA add,” I’ve struggled with the concept of “constitutionally protected” personal privacy. Ideally I’d like my life to be an open book. Why not? What have I got to hide? Basically, I suppose, there are three things I would like to hide.
First is an illegal communication or act that goes against the law of the land. Personally, I don’t want those hidden. Strike one.
Second, is a communication or act that is legal but “immoral.” If I am protesting the moral (or the legal) basis, then I should do so openly. If I have reason to be ashamed, I should change my behavior or learn to live with it. Guilt does not have to result in suicide. Get help. I don’t want to hide clandestine immoral acts that are harmful to society. Strike two.
Third, there may be communications that are legal and moral that I justifiably want to keep hidden. One reason is loss of intrinsic value. For example, there is an old wisdom that says that charitable acts lose their value to the donor and society if the source is known, due to aggrandizement.
More common is the infliction of emotional distress on others. This is dicey. Legally, the First Amendment gives us the right to inflict emotional harm if we so desire. Morally, such action may be shady anyway. Examples are the uniting of birth parents with adoptees, or disclosure of hostile feelings toward others. We then ask if it a simple case of hurt feelings, or the disruption of life to the point of physical and social injury, or something in between.
In balance, in today’s society, invasion of privacy may detect illegal acts or foreign acts of terror, and I think that’s good. Invasion of privacy with the likelihood of public disclosure may destroy intrinsic value or inflict emotional harm, and I think that’s not so good.
We have to weigh the probabilities. Which is more valuable to us?