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It’s The Tranquility, Stupid

posted at 12:01 pm
on Aug. 1, 2003

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I don’t think there’s such a thing as a right to privacy. Or rather, I think such a right could—and might currently—exist, but I think it’s the wrong right for a society to protect and the wrong value for individuals to espouse and encourage.

I believe that people like privacy, value privacy, enjoy privacy when they get it.  But people like money and there’s no “right to money.”

I think people have a right to be free from intimidation and discrimination and oppression, but privacy is something that people are free to pursue, but not to be promised.  Privacy is our own responsibility and choice; we can choose to be J.D. Salinger, or we can choose to be The Osbournes.  Most of us fall somewhere in between.

What people call “right to privacy” I believe should be recast as a right to tranquility.  The government, society, our neighbors, have plenty of reasons to want to know what’s going on in our lives.  And I, for one, welcome a lack of privacy when it’s to my benefit.  When I go into a restaurant that I like, and the hostess says, “Hello Travis,” and I say, “Let’s start off with my favorite,” that doesn’t feel like a violation of my privacy. And if a doctor knows the medical history of my family and uses that to help him make a proper diagnosis and better treatment of my medical condition, that’s fine as well.  If society takes medical records in aggregate and uses that to further medical science, or even to offer me better preventative healthcare service, that’s fine.

What I don’t want, is to be called, bothered, irritated, disturbed, by someone trying to sell me something.  If a local car dealership uses information about me—by doing data mining, by sending a broad swath of junk mail, or by buying a mailing list—to pester me about buying a car, that disturbs my tranquility, and that crosses the line.  There’s a lot of companies in the world, and I should have control over when and how and if they bother me. I shouldn’t have to opt out of communication with each one, and I shouldn’t have to beg them to leave me alone or put up with their promotions.

Again, it’s not wrong for a company to gather information, to record and cross-reference data about a person.  I don’t think it’s even wrong for them to sell that data to someone else, and I don’t think they need to tell me what they do with it.  I think the restriction has to come on the far side of the equation—you can’t use information you have gathered about a person to disturb their tranquility against their will.

Greta Garbo had it right after all. She clarified he famous statement: “I never said, ‘I want to be alone.’ I only said, ‘I want to be left alone.’ There is all the difference.” I couldn’t agree more.



 
 

 

Previous entry:
A Psychological Quiz (Answer)

Next entry:
Notes from Paris

Overheard

“The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.”

...who said it?

“Almost every American I know does trade large portions of his life for entertainment, hour by weeknight hour, binge by Saturday binge, Facebook check by Facebook check. I’m one of them. In the course of writing this I’ve watched all 13 episodes of House of Cards and who knows how many more West Wing episodes, and I’ve spent any number of blurred hours falling down internet rabbit holes. All instead of reading, or writing, or working, or spending real time with people I love.”

...who said it?

“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”

...who said it?

“I play with variables constantly.”

...who said it?

“Only the person who has learned Continual Love coming from a heart of Gratitude/Worship can effectively deal with the problem of loneliness.”

...who said it?

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