Baby Boomers fixated on privacy as a defense against the traditionalist society of the 1950s that obsessed on punishing visible deviation from “acceptable” behavior. If the “thought police” can’t prove you’re doing it, they can’t exact retribution. Today, Millennials are rabidly posting things on Twitter and Facebook that Boomer’s grandparents wouldn’t have done or even discussed in the privacy of their bedrooms. See the Share project: www.wouldyoushare.com. If exhibitionism and public display of so-called “perversions” becomes common place, then it’s hard to argue for privacy in that arena.
Who then now cares about lifestyle privacy? Criminals, terrorists, pedophiles care. Those engaged in illegal and corrupt activities need to remain hidden. The best defense against crime is not punishment, but transparency. The more difficult it is to use privacy phobias to shield those intent on harm, the safer and more secure normal life becomes.
We require registration of cars for public safety. We know unregistered cell phones are enabling organized crime. When will we ban them? Anonomous internet access allows easy communication for terrorists and makes our kids targets of cyberbullies. Perhaps absolute transparency would make us all better people.
As economic turmoil continues, it will become clearer that privacy regulations are another way of shielding the guilty. Financial institutions and large businesses fail while their executives receive huge bonuses and leave stakeholders to foot the bill. Mid-level employees lack the resources to hide the manipulations they instigate, often on direct orders from the executive suite. When the company gets caught, those directly involved find themselves in court, with no proof of the complicity from above. As conditions worsen, the public demands accountability and corporate privacy will be replaced by transparency.
Medical privacy (HIPPA) represents another run away phobia. Instead of preventing discrimination on the basis of medical conditions, lack of easy access to medical records has become life threatening. Only limited information can be carried on a medic alert. Particularly for elderly and disabled, arrival at the emergency room often turns into a frightening ordeal because diagnosis and treatment are delayed while physicians search for medical records. As delays and mistreatment increase, patients will demand the right to give up privacy for quick access.