My Privacy Views

I spent a good portion of 2010 working for the United States Census Bureau.  It was my first, practical exposure to how large numbers of people view privacy concerns.  It was fascinating to observe how my fellow Northeast Nebraskans felt and acted on their personal and family privacy.  I was also interested in how my fellow enumerators approached privacy concerns.privacy-padlock

The Census Bureau is an agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce.  It conducts one of the few constitutionally mandated requirements necessary for the machinery of government.  One of the main reasons we take a census count every ten years is to configure the House of Representatives.  Apportionment is how the number of congresspersons is distributed based on the share of each state’s population.  It is also used in the allotment of direct taxation based on a state’s population.

The act of collecting data requires face to face communication with a household member.  It’s one of the very rare instances that each and every household has benevolent, direct human contact with the Federal government.

During my travels around my part of Nebraska, I encountered people who harbored different opinions about and practices of privacy.  Indeed, the bureau trained us thoroughly about the ins and outs of privacy concerns that residents have.  There were a great many families who had breezy, nonchalant attitudes regarding their interviews.

On the other hand, I encountered a small minority of people who refused to even answer the knock on the door.  Some displayed outright hostility towards me.  Fortunately, I did not encounter anybody who threatened physical violence.  But I had heard of some instances of such.  We were trained as how to avoid receiving personal harm in the performance of our work.

Most of the households I surveyed were quite helpful and understood the reasons why the Census was necessary.  There were some people who seemed happy to visit with me.  I had the feeling that some of them were lonely and had very little contact with anyone who cared to ask about their lives.

I learned a lot, in 2010, about the general public’s feelings about privacy and the Federal Commerce Department’s policies regarding the collection and safeguarding of personal data. I was very glad that I was a small part of this national requirement.

privacy-signNow that the nation is worried about privacy amidst the revelations about the National Security Administration, The Central Intelligence Agency, the telecommunications industry, and private companies that have questionable privacy practices, I wonder how I’d be greeted by my fellow citizens if the Census was being conducted today. I wonder about my screening process and security clearance status and how they are conducted and might be processed these days.

Apart from a couple of speeding tickets I got as a young person, I have broken no laws and have never been a member of any kind of organization or political party that might be construed as “subversive”.  I am a card carrying member of PeTA, Greenpeace, and the Human Rights Campaign, so I’m no stranger to controversy. Other than that, I’m a rather harmless person.

If the NSA has ever looked over my browsing history from my Internet Service Provider, they wouldn’t have found any juicy information.  My data would show a pretty boring, run of the mill list of what I do online. That said, I take my right to privacy very seriously and I respect everybody else’s right to privacy in the same manner.

To a large extent, I consider the degree of a nation’s respect for its citizens’ rights to privacy a defining measure of its tendency and tolerance of tyranny. As a taxpaying, law abiding citizen, I expect my privacy to be absolutely respected.  The only information they need to know about me is what I provided on my tax form, Census survey, and security clearances.  Anything else they might have gathered from my blog posts is fine, because my life is pretty much an open book.

When it comes to my personal phone calls, emails, and other personal communications, I privacy-symboldraw the line.  I consider official and private amounts and accounts of privacy to be a serious moral issue.  The privacy and security of personal information is a legal right that absolutely must be enforced by the Constitution and backed up by the strength of statutes. I think that I have a legal right to be let alone in my day to day life.  Anyone or any government entity who attempts to violate my privacy will be considered as a wrongdoer who does not have my best interests in mind.

The Dean of the College of Law at UC Berkeley from 1948 to 1961, William Prosser listed four “rather definate” privacy concerns.  They were:

1.Intrusion upon a person’s seclusion or solitude, or into his private affairs.
2.Public disclosure of embarrassing private facts about an individual.
3.Publicity placing one in a false light in the public eye.
4.Appropriation of one’s likeness for the advantage of another.

I agree with this list and I believe everybody is entitled to these rights without exception.

I think that privacy is an important ingredient in intimate human interaction.  The respect of privacy is necessary because it allows ourselves control over information about ourselves.  This privacy allows us to maintain varying degrees of intimacy.  Trustworthiness, friendship, and ultimately, love are possible only when people are allowed their privacy. We feel a breach in privacy as a serious threat to our personal integrity. Privacy is therefore an important part of self-respect and respect of others.

Privacy is essential in a democratic republic because privacy promotes, autonomy, human relationships, selfhood, liberty, and ensures the survival of a free society. Privacy is necessary to enable citizens to participate as equals and to allow the practice of the liberal ideals of personhood. We all practice some degree of anonymity, secrecy, confidentiality, and solitude as inalienable rights.

Even though there is a threat of terrorism and the government needs a certain amount of intelligence to protect citizens, The President and all of the Federal agencies must have a mandatory respect for individual rights and civil liberties for all.  The Bill of Rights must be obeyed, and our right to privacy must absolutely be respected.


The Blue Jay of Happiness hopes everybody can enjoy their equal civil rights and privilages of personhood free of interferance by corporate, religious, and government institutions.

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in Controversy, Meanderings, Politics, religion and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to My Privacy Views

  1. I discovered your blog site on google and check a few of your early posts. Continue to keep up the very good operate. I just additional up your RSS feed to my MSN News Reader. Seeking forward to reading more from you later on!

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