Right to privacy – can it be an absolute right?
Let me begin with the disclaimer that there’s nothing legal in this blog.
As we develop into more modern civilization we start becoming more complex although we keep harping that we are trying to make life and living simple. We want absolute right of freedom of speech and expression at one end of the wanting stick and absolute “discretionary” privacy at the other end of the stick. Why discretionary, because it depends on my choice when to exercise it and when not to. Ok so by asking for right to privacy, we are trying make North and South meet. Will we succeed? Let’s find out.
Basically, we all are animals; hence it makes it makes lot of sense to start from the basics. In the animal kingdom, the right of privacy is exercised by making a demarcation by the animals. And how do animals do that? By urinating and leaving potty marks. And bingo, the other animals (of the same species usually) do respect that and do not try to invade the territory so marked. So, the privacy rights do exist as per the jungle laws. We humans, as we became less animalistic (more is few cases), started to build societies to have more securities, especially the group security, security from wild animals, natural disasters, security for food as collectively we could procure more and save more. The wise men understood that if human species has to survive it has got only one way and that is to live as one unit.
Well, it is fine to stay as one unit then but then it has its own costs. When the inter-dependency increases, the sharing goes up. And you share not only the food but your home (cave initially), your rituals, stories, pains and personal space too. So, as we started becoming more, so called, civilized we agreed in principle to let our privacy go away as we bargained better comforts of life for privacy.
We all were leading a happy life until Europe became more civilized and invented language, writing language. As the fate would have it, during the chilly winters of Europe when one can’t do anything, they started writing on matters which were important, sometimes, and on matters which merely served the fantasies of the writers from the civilized world. Ironically, when nothing can be fertile during the icy winter, the human mind has weird powers to become fertile. And not to forget, the whisky makes it ‘more’ versatile.
Thanks to European winters and whisky that we got the revolutionary idea of human rights and rights related to being a human. (It’s my one of the favourites that some human comes and talks about my human rights. I wish some alien or may be a god would have told that.) Anyways, with industrialization human society got food security and security from animals hence they started desiring something special. That special was “right to privacy”.
Great, I like that as a concept but find it to be a fallacy at the core of it. I do not want people to know how do I wash my clothes but want to flash the brand of underwear that I am wearing. I don’t want anyone to notice me when I am moving on the street but want to drive the loudest bike in the city. I don’t want anyone to peep into my car unless I have some good-looking co-passengers in it. I don’t want anyone to say a word to me but desire for thousand likes on the photo that I share on social media. I don’t anyone to peep into my bedroom and find out what pajama I am wearing but don’t you forget to comment on the beach dress that I am wearing in the photo.
The second part of fallacy. The government agencies know everything about us. They take away our hard earned and private money as taxes, but can we say anything against it. Please don’t get flabbergasted, to some money matters are quite private and equivalent to right to privacy. There are three entities who know everything about us. One the government agencies, two the internet and third the next door neighbour. There is no secret that one can hide because one or the other entity knows about it. And not to forget the CCTV cameras who is the biggest “know it all” guy.
The third part of fallacy is that by asking for absolute privacy rights we are trying to make the poles meet which cannot happen. Privacy as a concept has been developed on the basis of gender, religion, community, geography and climate. And unless there is uniformity we cannot have one shirt fits all policies. Privacy as a matter of right has many shades of sensitivity. What may be private to you may not be to me and vice and versa.
The mute question remains open that how do we grant absolute value to something when at the very core of it, it is supposed to be relative. And since right to privacy is relative in nature, I guess, right to privacy cannot be an absolute right.