Every once and a while a story about government surveillance and privacy rears its ugly head. But, but, but, people have a right to privacy!
No, not quite. They have a “reasonable” expectation of privacy. The reasonableness is determined by two factors. One, the person has to assert that expectation in some manner. This could be by word or deed. Closing the blinds, whispering, moving away from potential eavesdroppers would fit the bill. Secondly, that expectation has to be one that society is prepared to accept. Wearing pants made out of Saran wrap is probably not going to cut it. Engaging in any activity in a space to which the public has access is problematic. Just because the actor can’t see the spectators doesn’t mean spectators can’t see the actor.
Jim Geraghty at NRO has posted a commentary on National Review Online that should be required reading for anybody concerned with “privacy rights”.
The government is the least of society’s problem when it comes to video surveillance. Relatively speaking, the government doesn’t have cameras sweeping every street every minute of every day. What cameras they do have are dedicated to physical security or detecting criminal activity. When the government captures video of such activity, there are rules governing how the information can be used.
The real threat to “privacy” is posed by private surveillance. This could be anything from a door bell cam, to an Iphone and anything in between. Everybody with a cell phone poses the potential to invade somebody’s privacy. From act to publication on the Internet in a matter of seconds.
Great Moments in Ambush Photography
Here are four examples of individuals involved in noncriminal conduct. Their images were captured without government involvement. They are not subject to government sanction. However, the images are all over the Internet. They are the objects of ridicule.
Michael Ertel was forced to resign after this picture from fourteen years ago surfaced. Many of the images reproduced for newspaper articles were cut off at the shoulders. The articles focus on the “blackface.” Nothing in the related articles mention the 44DD’s he is sporting. Blackface, bad! Phony tits, good!
Take anything you see on the Internet with a grain of salt.