Thursday, October 7, 2010

Notes from a pseudoanonymous blogger named "dissent" on cyberbullying cases and the law and privacy concerns....


Privacy invasion aftermath: “Jumping off the gw bridge sorry.”
September 30, 2010 by Dissent

I didn’t sleep much last night. I felt sick inside over the suicide of
a young man whose privacy had been horribly invaded. There will be
those who lump this case in with what is often referred to as
“cyberbullying,” but cyberbullying does not necessarily involve
invasion of privacy. The suicide of Tyler Clementi is about privacy in
its most element form — to be able to engage in sexual activity in the
privacy of your own space without prying eyes.

Back in August, I blogged about my concerns that schools were grooming
students for a surveillance state in which they are growing up with
reduced expectations of privacy. At other times, I’ve covered news
stories about whether the younger generation has abandoned its privacy
or is less concerned about privacy. Whether it’s the schools,
Facebook, parents trying to be “friends” with their kids or
electronically snooping on their kids, or anything else, the bottom
line is that although privacy is certainly not dead, respect for
privacy is in peril.

We are failing our children if we do not teach them that not only do
they have a right to personal privacy, but they have a responsibility
to respect others’ privacy, too. The tragic case of Tyler Clementi,
which Kashmir Hill discusses on Forbes, the “Star Wars” kid video that
Daniel Solove discussed in his book The Future of Reputation, or any
of a number of cases where teens have either been the victims of a
privacy invasion or the perpetrators – all of these cases signal a
failure to teach respect for privacy. And in some cases, these privacy
invasions have had tragic consequences. Whether Clementi killed
himself out of depression or out of anger and desire to get revenge on
his roommate or for some other reason is unknown to me, and as a
psychologist, I will not speculate about his mental state. What does
seem evident, however, is that had it not been for the actions of
others who invaded his privacy, he would almost certainly be alive

Older teens and young adults are old enough to consent to having their
privacy invaded. They are also old enough to take responsibility for
invading others’ privacy. I’ve little doubt that many will clamor for
new laws criminalizing the conduct of the two students involved in the
Clementi case. Suddenly, five years for invasion of privacy will seem
too light a penalty. Where were all these people when many of us kept
warning others that we need more privacy protections, not less. Where
have the courts been when many of us have urged them to recognize
privacy harms that are not just unreimbursed financial losses or
demonstrable impact such as job discrimination?

And can we really hold young privacy invaders accountable or
responsible if we have failed to teach them what our parents taught
us? Knowing that what you are doing is wrong is one thing. Fully
appreciating how devastating a privacy invasion can be is another.

Being a parent is the toughest job on earth. When was the last time
you had a conversation with your child about privacy and respect for

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