"The House Falls"
The right to privacy is
the foundation of civilization,
the gentle veil that allows us
to tolerate each other's flaws.
Without it, we are stripped bare,
vulnerable without the reciprocity
that makes intimacy possible to bear.
Like a lion in a barren cage,
captive citizens pace and
bite the bars, each other,
and eventually themselves.
In order to maintain social order,
people must retain the power to decide
who may know what about them.
Without that, they turn inward
and stop saying anything at all,
or fling themselves open to violation.
Why speak if it will be used against you?
Why fight if you'll be forced anyway?
The right to privacy is vital,
because once you pull that brick out,
and another and another, then
pretty soon the house falls,
leaving everyone exposed.
* * *
"Right to privacy is really important. You pull that brick out and another and pretty soon the house falls."
-- Tim Cook
Privacy is a universal human need. It matters a great deal, especially in the digital age. The rise of data breaches and other violations of privacy has ruinous effects on people. Take some steps to protect your privacy.
Privacy is a universal need of other organisms as well. In bad zoos, animals have no shelter from prying eyes, which destroys their sense of security and thus their health. Lack of privacy can literally kill them. Good zoos provide enclosures which mimic each animal's natural habitat, including places to escape and hide. The best wolf exhibit I've seen was a green parklet with a constructed den complete with lookout spot on top, very similar to a real territory in miniature. As long as the wolves had that retreat available, they actually spent most of their time lounging on top of it or trotting around their perimeter, much as wild wolves do.
Lack of privacy and agency tend to wreck people's rationality. It is most dramatic in survivors of sexual abuse, who rarely show moderation in sexual activity, but instead tend to split into promiscuity or avoidance. Either they quit trying to protect themselves because they just get fucked anyway, or they refuse to have anything to do with sex and maybe even other people because they don't want to get fucked. You see the same pattern of privacy impact in data handling, where people may avoid medical care because they know it's not private. All the government ever has to do is ask to get anything that's been written down about you. That kills medical confidentiality, so many people don't go, or don't mention things. Conversely, many young people make little or no effort to protect their data. They see no point; they know people will spy on them no matter what, so why waste the effort? When I was growing up, I was taught never to give out my phone number except to people I wanted to talk with on the phone. This was very prudent. Now, total strangers demand it every time I make a purchase, even if I'm paying cash. It's not just offensive, it's dangerous, but they don't see that. And then they wonder why young people are data-promiscuous: because society denies them privacy.