Privacy is the most important human right
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Privacy protects us from abuses by those in power, even if we’re doing nothing wrong at the time of surveillance. We do nothing wrong when we make love or go to the bathroom. We are not deliberately hiding anything when we seek out private places for reflection or conversation. We keep private journals, sing in the privacy of the shower, and write letters to secret lovers and then burn them. Privacy is a basic human need. I]f we are observed in all matters, we are constantly under threat of correction, judgment, criticism, even plagiarism of our own uniqueness. We become children, fettered under watchful eyes, constantly fearful that — either now or in the uncertain future — patterns we leave behind will be brought back to implicate us, by whatever authority has now become focused upon our once-private and innocent acts. We lose our individuality, because everything we do is observable and recordable. How many of us have paused during conversation in the past four-and-a-half years, suddenly aware that we might be eavesdropped on?
Probably it was a phone conversation, although maybe it was an e-mail or instant-message exchange or a conversation in a public place. Maybe the topic was terrorism, or politics, or Islam. We stop suddenly, momentarily afraid that our words might be taken out of context, then we laugh at our paranoia and go on. But our demeanor has changed, and our words are subtly altered. This is the loss of freedom we face when our privacy is taken from us. This is life in former East Germany, or life in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. And it’s our future as we allow an ever-intrusive eye into our personal, private lives. I reject the notion that we have to choose between privacy and security, and I agree with the oft-repeated quote about the foolishness of sacrificing the former in pursuit of the latter. We deserve privacy, and we don’t have to give it up to have security. They work very well together. Encoding messages for my friends and family is fun, but I sure don’t want to feel like I have to do it all the time, just because I can’t trust my government – and, increasingly, my neighbors – to leave me alone.