We've talked before here about our shrinking zone of privacy, or, rather, the diminishing number of places and circumstances where we have an "expectation of privacy." I keep hoping it will go the other way -- an expansion of privacy -- but it doesn't. Worse, we seem to keep lowering our own expectations. Cameras watching our every move once we leave the house? Hey, no big deal. Government wants an encryption device in every computer so it can peek in at will? Who cares? And younger generations seem not to know or care that everything they say or do in the digital world will be there forever.
Maybe this will be the case that turns things around, or at least gets a good debate going:
The Supreme Court said Monday it would rule for the first time on whether employees had a right to privacy when they sent text messages on electronic devices supplied by their employers.
The justices agreed to hear an appeal from the city of Ontario, which was successfully sued by police Sgt. Jeff Quon and three other officers after their text messages -- some of which were sexually explicit -- were read by the police chief.
At issue is whether the chief violated their rights under the 4th Amendment, which forbids "unreasonable searches" by the government. The Supreme Court's ruling on the issue, due by June, could set new rules for the workplace in public agencies, and perhaps in private companies as well.
This may seem like one of those areas where technology is forcing us to re-examine our laws and the way we use them to define our relationships. But I think the core issue is a familiar one.
I was told by my immediate superior at one workplace not to keep anything personal in my desk. "You just use this office and that desk," he said. "They still belongs to the company, and it can take a look anytime it wants to, without notice and without reason." That offended me then, and time has not diminished my ire. I didn't think my boss had any more right to snoop around "my" office than a landlord did to rummage around in "my" apartment when I was absent. Privacy is a precious right that is necessary to the human psyche, and I resist the idea that we have to leave it in our homes whenever we wander into any public spaces