Gun rights advocates are so angry at a Westchester County, N.Y. newspaper for what they see as a major privacy invasion that they’re sending reporters envelopes full of suspicious white powder.But is what the Journal News did — publishing a map of gun owners’ names and addresses — really all that different from every other privacy invasion you routinely allow in your daily life?
The New York Times’ Bill Keller addresses that sticky issue in his most recent op-ed, published Sunday:
When it comes to privacy, we are all hypocrites. We howl when a newspaper publishes public records about personal behaviour. At the same time, we are acquiescing in a much more sweeping erosion of our privacy — government surveillance, corporate data-mining, political microtargeting, hacker invasions — with no comparable outpouring of protest. As a society we have no coherent view of what information is worth defending and how to defend it.
And while Keller ultimately bashes the News for running its map, he makes a strong point about privacy.
mobile phone carriers seem to have no qualms about giving up information on subscribers’ text messages and other data, and a court has ruled if you’re stealing someone else’s Internet than you have no expectation of privacy. California’s highest court has even decreed cops can search a suspect’s phone at the time of arrest without a warrant.
Back in December, Washington University School of Law professor Neil Richards warned Business Insider about the peril of failing to keep an eye on the government as it encroaches on our privacy.
“What I do see happening is big institutions, the government, police forces, tech companies, they’re always pushing, they’re always asking for more, they’re trying to intrude more into personal information and previously private zones,” Richards told Business Insider.
If it’s OK for the government to require social security cards for citizens or install red light cameras, then why have two New York counties erupted in total fury over a newspaper publishing comparable information?
It seems the two issues are fairly comparable.
The only difference is the Journal News made you realise that information was out there and readily accessible, while the red light cameras are just small, unremarkable devices you drive by on your way to work.
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