Private Eyes

July 23

I’ve finally decided what I think about privacy. I’ve oil-wrestled in this space a few times with the issue, and it has always slithered from my squeezes. I couldn’t find the mooring spot of principle in either history or custom to tie the discussion to, so I gave up.

But now I have my principle. My principle is that I deserve the amount of privacy that I want and feel entitled to. What kind of principlke is THAT? What if everybody took that position? My answer is: THEY DO! Or should. And then we fight it out in the political process and come to some workable compromises. (Or we would if we had a working democracy).

But the larger point is we’d at least have the conversation. Right now we are close to throwing in the towel and giving up on the idea of privacy altogether. There is the sporadic flare-up about government spying, but our reaction on this is mixed. People think they value their privacy, that is until they start thinking about terrorists and apply their very poor risk-assessment skills to the equation. Just look at how early and abjectly Americans surrendered their love of privacy to airline passenger screening. “Yes, here is my belt, and I would gladly walk into your scanner for naked pictures, but my pants are already down around my shoeless feet!”

But even this doesn’t quite get the discussion right. I still feel the bigger infringement on my privacy comes from the private sector, with every click and purchase being recorded and stored and used to market to me. And then you run into a story like this.  This has gotten to the point that feels distinctly creepy, and I hate it and I think we need to reclaim some space now.

Tom Toles is the editorial cartoonist for The Post and writes the Tom Toles blog.
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Tom Toles · July 22