Friday, 14 October 2011

A problem with secrecy.

There is a problem with the issue of secrecy and the national scandal of phone hacking as a good example.  Lots of people express their different views and there even seems to be a consensus opinion that people's privacy should be protected.  But that actually confuses the issue and is leading people into another more severe problem.

People do not have some inalienable right to secrecy.  If that is established it is the people with a motive to be secretive who will be protected.  In fact that is the way it is and the scandal is more likely to give the devious manipulators more power and control over others.  But the issue is mixed up with the reasonable expectation that 'private' information should not be broadcast when it will be abused and cause undue harm to the subject.  It is not 'privacy' that is sacrosanct but rather the abuse of information that should be dealt with.  For example, if I were a politician and I dropped a brick on my foot this morning causing me to swear and someone published the fact that I swore in a national newspaper, what could be the problem?  If that information were used to inappropriately suggest I was an undesirable type who was not fit to hold a public position and I lost my job, it is not the fact of it being broadcast that 'caused' the injustice.  It would be the inappropriate and unfair actions taken by someone else based on an inaccurate and prejudicial interpretation of the facts.  Obviously the motive for the broadcasting has to be questioned too.

During the early days of the Libyan uprising I was pleased to hear one interviewee give his name and point out that he disagreed with all the secrecy where individuals remained anonymous when they spoke out against the government because, as he pointed out, it is the secrecy that is colluding with the perpetrators of the crime.  The secrecy is, in fact, giving power to the abuser.

Just because it is a difficult problem is not justification to 'opt' for one solution which happens to be wrong.  Just because one can't solve the problem doesn't mean a quick guess is right.  Behind all of this is a lack of personal responsibility.


  1. With great power comes great responsibility. If you spoke out against a particular politician and that politician had information that could hurt you in some way, he could use it against you. However, odds are, you won't have any information on him because he will, to some extent, be protected.

    An example would be that Hitler started out a likeable fellow. Then he passed a series of gun laws and confisgated all the guns. Afterward, he and the nazis were the only ones with guns and that power was abused...

  2. Hitler started out as a likeable fellow... hmmm... Just let me make that secret phone call. (Of course you are quite right really in what you are trying to say)