On Privacy

Published on September 15, 2014 (↻ June 8, 2021), filed under (RSS feed for all categories).

These are quite some theses. Perhaps I’m too much of an idealist at times.

A few theses on a critical subject. This, too, comes a bit early but it’s good enough for the moment.

  1. Privacy is a condition under which a living being * is physically, mentally, and virtually alone, unmonitored, and undisturbed †.

  2. Privacy is important because it is one of the few conditions a living being has to rest and think. It is the only condition under which a living being can act in any way it pleases—even against prevailing moral and legal codes ‡. It is also the only condition that allows for experimentation under no risk of social stigma and punishment—that is, it doesn’t induce the self-censorship that comes with social facilitation.

  3. All these conditions are part of what makes liberty. A living being cannot be free without privacy.

  4. All these conditions are part of what makes intelligence. A living being cannot be, cannot become as intelligent without privacy.

  5. All living beings shall be free by default. They shall stay free unless, and then only as long as, they constitute a substantial and inescapable threat for themselves or others.

  6. All living beings thus have a right for privacy.

  7. Institutions and individuals responsible for other living beings (for example, states, or parents) have an obligation to provide for and guarantee a minimum level of privacy. (What constitutes a minimum I will not want to define here, but one shall always err on the side of granting more rather than less privacy.)

  8. The invading on the space as well as the recording of living beings, regardless of the technology used, is a violation of their privacy.

  9. Intentional violations shall be punished by no less than the combined common punishments for voyeurism, trespassing, and false imprisonment. Violations shall be condemned socially, to the greatest degree possible.

  10. There are no exceptions to these provisions.

* Living beings of course include animals, too, and we have an even longer way to go here.

† Under the terms of physical reality as we commonly understand it.

‡ Note that this does in no way equal harm, for most of our legal and moral codes apply to the interaction of people.

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About Me

Jens Oliver Meiert, on September 30, 2021.

I’m Jens (long: Jens Oliver Meiert), and I’m a frontend engineering leader and tech author/publisher. I’ve worked as a technical lead for companies like Google and as an engineering manager for companies like Miro, I’m close to W3C and WHATWG, and I write and review books for O’Reilly and Frontend Dogma.

I love trying things, not only in web development (and engineering management), but also in other areas like philosophy. Here on meiert.com I share some of my views and experiences.

If you want to do me a favor, interpret charitably (I speak three languages, and they can collide), yet be critical and give feedback for me to learn and improve. Thank you!