Two Principles for Your Discussion

A NOTION THAT’S been floating around in my mind for the longest, but recently was excited by an article in the New York Review of Books.

First principle: The right to privacy is absolute. There is a bright line. But on the rights-of-the-individual side of the line is that you have the right to be unobserved, your privacy untrammeled, in your own mind. And that which comes out of your mind — the “effects” part of “Persons, papers, and effects” in the Fourth Amendment — is your property and only your property, and anyone coming into possession of it has a morally absolute and fiduciary responsibility to protect its confidentiality. In a perfect world, they should not even acknowledge or admit that they have it. Therefore, information about you — meta-data — your effects — is private and secure from any search or seizure absent a presentation of a warrant, duly prepared, issued, and executed according to the Fourth Amendment… only to the individual who owns the information. In the presence of legal counsel, if so desired. Nor is any person permitted to reveal information that is about themselves if it relates to another, without all of the appropriate hoops having been jumped through.

Second principle: the Constitution is the supreme law of the land. It is mostly about limits on government, but — especially in the Bill of Rights — it enshrines the American Exception: sovereignty rests in the individual. Thus no one — public or private — may violate any of the rights therein enshrined. As we have learned, it is quite possible for individuals to violate an individual’s civil rights. And a regime of rights is useless if it is enforceable only in the public sphere. No, your doctor may not open your patient records to the government. No, your bank may not inform the IRS even of the existence of your account.

As you can tell, we have a lot of work to do in this area.

(Hat tip: Good Shit)

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