What do privacy’s critics have to hide?

Yawn. Alexander Nazaryan in Newsweek (March 22) has penned yet another tirade against privacy.

His column is all strawman. No one has ever said privacy is more important than other rights and interests. The infamous Right to be Forgotten is a case in point — the recent European ruling is expressly about balancing competing interests, around privacy and public interest. All privacy rules and regulations, our intuitions and habits, all concede there may be over-riding factors in the mix.

So where on earth does the author and his editors get the following shrill taglines from?

It is so tiresome that we advocates have to keep correcting grotesque misrepresentations of our credo. The right to be let alone was recognised in American law 125 years ago, and was written into the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 1966. Every generation witnesses again the rhetorical question “Is Privacy Dead?” (see Newsweek, 27 July 1970). The answer, after fifty years, is still “no”. The very clear trend worldwide is towards more privacy regulation, not less.

Funnily enough, Nazaryan makes a case for privacy himself, when he reminds us by-the-by that “the feds do covertly collect data about us, often with the complicity of high-tech and telecom corporations” and that “any user of Google has to expect that his/her information will be used for commercial gain”. Most reasonable people look to privacy to address such ugly imbalances!

Why are critics of privacy so coldly aggressive? If Nazaryan feels no harm comes from others seeing him searching porn, then we might all admire his confidence. But is it any of his business what the rest of us do in private? Or the government’s business, or Google’s?

Privacy is just a fundamental matter of restraint. People should only have their personal information exposed on a need-to-know basis. Individuals don’t have to justify their desire for privacy! The onus must be on the watchers to justify their interests.

Why do Alexander Nazaryan and people of his ilk so despise privacy? I wonder what political or commercial agendas they have to hide?