volume 1, issue 2
Secrecy is an exponential form of privacy and, although still a necessary tool in guerilla warfare, it is so only because guerilla warfare moves in the same context of proprietary classes. Regardless, the discourse has shifted from affirming secrecy as a relevant tool for guerilla warfare to a public concern about privacy, usually about the Soros [sic.] of potential use and abuse of personal information by business and government.
Without relinquishing personal information like social security numbers and bank account numbers, it is impossible to own or rent a home, drive a car, obtain loans. With these requirements, phenomena like data banks and data processing create new job opportunities. Not surprisingly, insurance companies, Credit Card companies, Doctors and Hospitals, the News Media and the Government are labeled “Privacy Intensive Industries”. There are three major categories of concern to the privacy-defender:
•the propriety of the information collected
•the extent to which this information is kept confidential and
•the right to access information held by any of these institutions
The Government maintains that all private information on its citizens is necessary to provide services and to ensure law and order within its obligation to protect rather than preserve the rights of its citizens.
The appearance of minority groups complicates this discourse since publicly claiming anyone’s heterosexual preference appears as a tautology, whereas in conditions of oppression, the public claim of a silenced preference is understood as a demand for social change. In a conservative definition of privacy, privacy itself may be used as an aggressive agent for social tolerance and a denial of full and firm privacy rights. This suddenly appears to be the moment when privacy is the most obviously justified. It reopens the wound of protective expectations we hold, identifying privacy with something natural, pre-political, pre-reflective. It is understood that since society failed to bear guaranteed equality to participants of a stigmatized minority; we need to avoid confusing will with duty or decision with force.
In the early 1990’s the Clinton administration made the military’s acceptance of gay and lesbians conditional upon the law of homosexuals not revealing their preference in speech or action. A law of the duty to be private was created that held the previously mentioned bourgeois elegance of withdrawal as the chorus line for an intolerant assumed majority. Or worse, it reestablishes that only before God and the priest will I admit, for they both know already.
Other privacy intensive industries like insurance companies work with the simple logic of equating the value of privacy with value of property- in inverse proportion. Insurance X insures your car but certainly it needs to know which the model of car to establish a relationship, and they need to know if you are homosexual and therefore suspect to alternative driving habits.
If privacy becomes a law, a regulation and a demand, it certainly cannot continue to hold the definition of being naturally or pre-politically private; it becomes instead a public concern, a moralistic approach to a superficial trust-share and it creates an artificially private person.
Distinguishing personal from private, the personal is meant when a concrete object or space is referred to such as real estate; a personal backyard or a personal record. Private is understood as the abstract connotation of an experience, a documented reference of a fact (medical record), a metaphorical space or property, thoughts and “domestic” space.
As in other concepts, privacy seems to receive its definition from the particular context where it is provided or withheld. It is one guaranteed right that is strangely left to be provided or withheld by a person of greater authority. Information requests about whether you are a smoker seem wildly intrusive when asked by an insurance company representative, seem harmless when asked while on a date, and reasonable if asked by a doctor. If we cannot decide whether we want to provide information and are forced to, we believe our privacy has been invaded. If, to the psychoanalyst, the male refers to his penis and balls as his private parts, where does this leave his liver? Privacy assumes power to access for the one claiming it and affirms a distinct idea of segregation.
This means that in certain cases the moral question of what kind of information is provided is obsolete; the fact of being required to provide in itself is intrusive and it should be understood that the right of not to be required is the right that should be protected. There is an ethical measure that is activated when we are asked questions, which represent the amount we feel intruded. Control is the magic word. Recent fears and discussions on privacy are based around the loss of controlling the circulation of private information, since we all know that private information is a profitable hustle.
Two major contradictions appear immediately: Privacy is used as a product genre, which reveals what is meant to be unshared. This genre manifests a didactic mythology of the concept of privacy that is economically established to nourish a psychology of interest, an infantile seduction of “you want to know this, because you are not supposed to know.” Its presence takes form in the legal procedure of copyright that has become so mundane that it is uninteresting to the consumer. Mass media needs a consumer that believes in privacy as a concrete right; first to legitimize meaningless stories and second to secure the money of meaningless stories through copyright. Copyright is given the very noble aspect of fair trade, but it does not only protect the author or pioneer, it inclusively protects distributor, publisher, and the copyright industry. And does it protect. Simply put, there is no ethical ground at stake with privacy, since the urge to protect authorship is so tightly connected to the potential for concrete profit. If there were no profitability in ideas no one would consider claiming someone else’s original authorship.
Another contradiction is that providing private
information can be a form of control. If you provide information about
yourself that is inaccessible to others, you employ a mechanism of
control since you know information the other doesn’t until you
provide it to them. This automatically manifests a hierarchy in terms
of knowledge and access. On top of this, the one to who the information
is provided will feel special, another strategy in favor of capitalist
psychology. It is invented to make the powerless mistake themselves
as powerful and special and therefore to stay peacefully powerless.