The Absurd Consequences of a "Right to Privacy"
Date Written: 17/02/2017
Year Published: 2017
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX20372
British MP David Daviss text messages poking fun at the appearance of a female colleague make him the latest whipping boy for those determined to root out sexism and misogyny in public life, the Daily Mail reports. Curiously, they also make him the latest poster boy for exponents of an expansive "right to privacy."
A number of rights do, in effect, protect personal privacy. The rights of free speech and free press include the right to refrain from speaking or publishing if there's something I don't want to tell you. Property rights mean that I can bar you from my house and knowledge of what goes on there absent a warrant issued on probable cause to believe I've committed a crime. It's proper that information gained in violation of those rights be excluded from criminal proceedings, if for no other reason than to discourage police from violating those rights.
But personal and public opinion aren't court proceedings such as those referred to by Edward Coke when he said (as quoted by O'Neill) "no man, ecclesiastical or temporal, shall be examined upon the secret thoughts of his heart, or of his secret opinion."
Nor is there a "right to privacy" -- a right to forbid other people to know things -- as such. Privacy is merely an effect -- an imperfect intersection of penumbrae emanating from other rights.