George Orwell's 1984 envisioned a world where individuals were controlled and monitored by centralized government. In such a world, the individual had no place to hide from governmental omnipresence.
While Orwell was correct in foreseeing evaporating individual privacy, the enemy of privacy is not necessarily government. Indeed, we may only have ourselves to blame for the destruction of privacy that we hold so dear.
Just one recent example brings this point home.
ChinaDaily.com has reported that a three-minute video of a young couple who were kissing and hugging at Shanghai metro station recently was uploaded onto YouTube.com as well as Ku6.com. The video fairly quickly received many thousands of viewing hits.
The couple reportedly are very embarrassed. On top of that, the man reportedly quit his job subsequent to receiving telephone calls about the incident.
This incident underscores the pervasiveness of technology that can broadcast our most private moments to the entire world. These days, for instance, people do not leave home without their cell phones, and many cell phones have video and photography capabilities.
Thus, whenever something catches someone's attention, even if that something is someone else's intimate moment, it can be captured on the spot by way of video or photos. From there, it is practically no effort to post the video or photos on the Internet for worldwide viewing.
While we enjoy the many features provided on our handheld devices, is this the direction we want to be heading in terms of the annihilation of privacy? I think not.
We really should do unto others as we would have them do unto us. We should refrain from capturing obviously private moments between others without their consent.
Perhaps an argument could be made that in circumstances like the young couple kissing at the train station, if they truly wanted privacy, they should have kissed behind their own closed doors, and not in a public place. While that might be the case, did they reasonably expect that they would be filmed and that such footage would show up on the Internet? I hope not.
To buy the argument that all private conduct must take place behind closed doors is to force everyone underground in their private dealings with others. Should we live in a world where the expectation is that we can and will be filmed for worldwide viewing at any possible moment? No!
As it turns out, the kissing couple reportedly have filed a lawsuit, alleging that the metro station itself illegally filmed them and wrongfully uploaded the video onto the Internet. Shanghai Metro reportedly has stated that it is investigating the matter and will punish any employees who may have leaked the video.
Where technology travels, the law will follow. We certainly can expect further legal developments when it comes to the monitoring and broadcasting of individuals by others, and perhaps specific protections need to be put in place.