Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Part V: Filling in the framework; Absolute advocacy dos and don'ts

Part I: The Right to Privacy
Part II: The Nature of Consent
Part III: Transparency
Part IV: A Framework for the Consideration of Privacy Issues

Part V: Filling in the framework; Absolute advocacy dos and don'ts
Using the framework proposed in Part IV, there is certainly proper role for privacy advocacy in a free and open society.

With any interaction that can be categorized as mandated/opaque or mandated/vague a privacy advocate can be seen as simply using their right to free speech to argue for their own individual privacy rights. Since mandated interactions are mandated by the government and laws, ideally, are enforced equally, any change the privacy advocate spurs affects everyone. In a democracy this is completely appropriate.

The same can be said for interactions falling within the mandated/customary and mandated/transparent categories, but these are likely to be well-worn areas in the marketplace of ideas with little space for advocates to advance the public debate.

The other region of the framework that will attract advocates is the area of the opaque interactions to the right of the mandated section. But since the further right you move along the x-axis, the more consensual the interaction, the character of the advocates’ actions changes. Activity in this region is no longer petitioning the government for changes to the laws under which everyone must live; it is more nuanced than that. Activities in this region must attempt to educate individuals about the nature of these interactions or they short-circuit an individual’s freedom of choice by attempting to make the issue a legal one. Depending upon the issue at stake, either activity might be appropriate, but there is a real and substantial difference between the advocate’s activities re mandated and more consensual interactions.

So there are two regions of the framework that are sure to attract privacy advocates, where they have a legitimate role even though the nature of that role might change substantially.

There is also at least one region of the chart where there is absolutely no role for a privacy advocate who wishes to avoid invading the privacy of others and earning the label of hypocrite. That region is, of course the explicit/transparent area. An advocate who wishes to intrude upon this area does not wish to protect an individual’s right to privacy; he wishes to dictate the behavior of private individuals according to his own aesthetic.

The chart below shows the area of the previously suggested framework where it is reasonable to take an absolutist position. Advocates have an absolute right to act within the green area, and an absolute duty to refrain from activity in the red area (click to enlarge).

Part VI: Filling in the framework, subjectivity and interpretation