Laws Derive from Principles
A lawyer and judge were talking at lunch a few days ago about detectives, spying, and how laws are written and interpreted to allow loopholes. For example, the lawyer said, unwarranted wire-tapping was illegal because the term wire-tap was specifically used in the law, making judges issue warrants prior to tapping lines. However, cell phone conversations and e-mail are not protected as private communication. Instead, they are legally treated as if they were discarded mail. But a discretely made – as in respectfully quiet – phone call is a private phone call: just because it’s possible to eavesdrop doesn’t mean it’s right to, and such conversations are nobody’s business unless the speaker says they are. I’m sure those reading feel the same way. That’s a principled way of looking at the issue and includes an understanding of the fact that people, and those they are with, have a right to be left alone even when they are in public places. With obvious exceptions, such as performance or campaigning, famous or otherwise public figures and their communications are also to be treated as private.
Government and local police have argued that they have the right to root through garbage because throwing a letter away makes it public, but whether I send electronically or discard writings or letters doesn’t change the fact that they are meant only for those I choose to address. Regardless of material structure and technological means of conveyance those communications are and remain private unless I state otherwise. Throwing something away doesn’t mean it has been released for public consumption or view: I have thrown it away to be forgotten or destroyed, not given or shown it to anyone else. Discarding a letter in garbage may never be mistaken as granting permission to snoop!
When I write and send an email it is private, intended only for those I have written and addressed it to. Electronic or otherwise, by default mail is private. Because data is often at risk does not validate any argument or assertion that a letter or note or anything else sent electronically is not to be regarded as private. Just because one can kill does not grant the right to do so: murder is murder regardless of the means by which it is accomplished. The same holds true to the definition of private and the right to privacy. Without a legitimate warrant based on sound evidence, no one but those I address my call or letter to – no government, corporation, entity, or individual – has the right to interfere with the transmission of or to listen to or read anything that I choose to say, write, create, or otherwise send to an addressee. The right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness is based upon the right of privacy, which includes property: privacy, and the right of the individual to it, therefore holds on principle. No technological development or operational premise can legitimize any violation of privacy. Law is therefore to be interpreted and administered to uphold privacy. No argument or foolish sentiment alters that, and the only loophole that exists is the one that finds its way around the necks of those who fall for such authoritarian efforts.
That’s all for now! Good reading and good day.
Brian D. Sadie
10 April 2012