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    Salon: ‘Privacy’: Why it matters much more than you think

    Salon takes a look at Garret Keizer’s book, “Privacy,” and discusses the idea of privacy and why it is important:

    The greatest threat to privacy in contemporary America is a pervasive, shrugging indifference. Many (though not all) citizens are willing to give up a certain amount of their personal information to obtain credit cards, rent movies, post photos on Facebook and look at Web pages. After all, if you’re not doing anything wrong, what do you have to hide? At least that’s the logic flitting through many minds as they prepare to order groceries online or download the sequel to “Fifty Shades of Grey” onto their Kindles.

    Garret Keizer’s slim, eloquent “Privacy” is a cri de coeur against this state of affairs, less a book of facts and theories than a series of provocative juxtapositions and suggestive arguments. It encourages its readers to reframe how they think of privacy before it’s too late. Read it to jolt your imagination into new territory, and to understand why the privacy that many of us sacrifice so readily ought to be held more dear.

    Take, for example, the advantages listed in my first paragraph, conveniences for which many of us blithely trade our privacy online. They allow us to enjoy a film without having to share the theater with annoying popcorn-munchers, to avoid standing in line at the drugstore while holding over-the-counter hemorrhoid medication and to read that “Fifty Shades” e-book on the subway in confidence that our fellow passengers will learn nothing of our taste in smut. In contrast to the people poised at our elbows to snoop, interfere or judge, the corporations who track our consumption of these items seem so remote. But, as Keizer points out, “in attempting to hide from our neighbors, we put ourselves more at the mercy of opportunistic strangers.” […]

    Keizer aims to show that privacy, and respect for privacy, are core humanist values that should be enshrined in the heart of any society aspiring to social justice. He argues this against two distinct points of view that treat privacy as unimportant. The first, and by far the most common in American culture, regards privacy as a relatively minor right that can and often should cede precedence in favor of convenience and commerce (in cases of corporate information gathering) or security (in cases of government spying to combat “terror”). But there’s another type of skepticism toward privacy rights, the kind held by Keizer’s fellow leftists, who dismiss it as a bourgeoise concern and a taboo that has been used, historically, to cover up abuses of power.

    While most readers will be interested in Keizer’s apologia in light of the first attitude, I should note that he puts more energy into refuting the second.

    One Response to “Salon: ‘Privacy’: Why it matters much more than you think”

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