Privacy is important to the development of full individuals because there has to be an interior zone within each person that other people don’t see. There has to be a zone where half-formed thoughts and delicate emotions can grow and evolve, without being exposed to the harsh glare of public judgment. There has to be a place where you can be free to develop ideas and convictions away from the pressure to conform. There has to be a spot where you are only yourself and can define yourself.
Privacy is important to families and friendships because there has to be a zone where you can be fully known. There has to be a private space where you can share your doubts and secrets and expose your weaknesses with the expectation that you will still be loved and forgiven and supported.
Privacy is important for communities because there has to be a space where people with common affiliations can develop bonds of affection and trust. There has to be a boundary between us and them. Within that boundary, you look out for each other; you rally to support each other; you cut each other some slack; you share fierce common loyalties.
Privacy for normal citizens going around their everyday personal, family and community lives is essential for our very sanity, which is why the question of government agencies monitoring our every keystroke is such an important question of liberty. But as Brooks points out in his NYT op-ed and as Digby elucidates further, privacy for police officers on duty is a very different question.
I wouldn’t ever begrudge police officers a dime for what they do. But that also comes with the responsibility to follow the law and the constitution and there are just too many perverse incentives and too much of a military culture in police work not to use the safeguards that body cams bring to the task.
It’s a delicate balance. But there’s a huge difference between the government using technology to intrude on the most private thoughts and habits of average Americans without cause and using it to ensure that police interactions with citizens are proper. After all, there’s nothing new in having police give a report after an incident. All that’s different about this is that there will now be independent documentation to back up what they say.
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