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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Nobody’s Business But My Own

At the advanced age of 41 I have some pretty old fashioned ideas. One of these is an absolute belief in the importance of personal privacy.

Invading the privacy of celebrities is a long-standing media tradition and one could argue they deserve it. The danger is when ordinary individuals start to lose their privacy – and welcome that loss.

It probably started with US daytime TV shows of the Oprah variety. Being “on TV” was so important for people that they were willing to share their most personal secrets with the world. As these shows spread and multiplied, hanging one’s dirty linen out in public started to become a goal in life for some. Privacy was willingly sold for a few minutes of fame.

Reality TV shows took this a stage further. People became used to the idea that privacy was something so unimportant that it could be given up in the name of entertainment. Big Brother worked initially because it was new and shocking; now it is commonplace. Most of the “contestants” are canny enough to know they’re playing to the cameras. The danger is the viewing public who come to accept the whole concept as a harmless bit of fun.

These attitudes spread throughout society as a whole. Michael Jennings wrote an interesting piece about bag searches in Australia. We don’t have those here without probable cause, however we almost got to the stage where they were unnecessary. A while back there was a fad for using transparent carrier bags and rucksacks so that the whole world could see your baggage. Even that most sacred of receptacles the woman’s handbag was being exposed to all.

Why does this matter? What dirty secrets am I trying to hide?

Privacy is essential for individuality and diversity. Lack of privacy makes it more difficult to be “different”, it drives people towards uniformity and conformity. If “no privacy” becomes the norm then those of us who insist on privacy will be automatically branded as “suspicious”.

Lack of privacy leads to a bland, safe, boring world. No colours, just shades of grey. A stagnant society that is easily led – and easily sold to. A perfect world for government and big business.

Which is one reason I’m vehemently against compulsory National Identity Cards. People say “if you’re innocent you’ve nothing to fear”. I fear loss of privacy. Where I go and what I do is not illegal, it’s just no business of the police, the government or anyone else.

I don’t want Big Blunkett watching me.

Cross-posted from An It Harm None

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