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Dr. Cheryl Pappas Headshot

Privacy, Schmivacy

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In the introduction of their 1995 book, The Right to Privacy, Ellen Alderman and Caroline Kennedy point out that the word "privacy" does not appear in the United States Constitution. What's up with that?

Maybe we should do something about it. Perhaps an addendum to the Constitution is in order regarding privacy? (Yeah, and a round of economic and physical health for everyone.)

Optimistically, I'm seeing more attention focused everyday on the perils of privacy's absence on Google, Facebook, and a number of other social networks and websites. If we care about privacy, all may not be lost!

At the same time, it is appalling how people are duped into celebrating even less privacy. In a recent twist, banks now offer exciting online deposit programs, where cell phone pictures of checks can be deposited in personal checking accounts from anywhere in your home! Hello and hooray! Welcome to a new criminal opportunity!

In my obsession to understand how privacy has successfully disappeared from our personal lives, I have a habit of interviewing political sharpies on the subject. That is, people who are far more savvy and awake to the '60s and '70s than I, who spent those years enjoying my La Jolla-adjacent childhood bubble.

In those days, was there a real, significant difference in our ability to live a private life, I wonder, or was I in a dreamy sleep, unable even then to note the rumblings that would soon mark the end of personal freedom and true private expression?

It seems there were privacy-eroding rumblings -- i.e. the credit card revolution -- that were soon wildly accelerated by technological advances, the hefty subject of 20th Century economic and sociopolitical history.

Today, I see examples of our invasive society wherever I go.

It's hard to miss. And I'm not only talking about the commonly camouflaged cameras on street lights at major intersections, or cameras in commercial buildings recording the comings and goings of normal people.

Take, for example, this scenario: a recent visit to a local Starbucks, where 6 aggressive, bulldog animal-men, armed with heavy camera equipment, brazenly announced to me their aim to "shoot" unwelcome footage of an academy award-winning actress upon her return to the parking lot. The scene had a nasty, warlike crust around it.

Entering the place, I saw in the back dark corner the quivering woman in question, pinned to the wall awaiting the police. She spoke with me, crying and clearly shaken.

Okay, I understand the contract of celebrity, but I don't understand stalking someone outside their home and following them to a Starbucks. For what? A $500 check for capturing an unmade-up famous face? Is it just Us Weekly, or is it a seething public motivation of envy that dines on capturing and studying an imperfect famous face?

This particular woman told me -- and I know she knows -- that until she is physically harmed or murdered, the police will not help her and the law is on the side of the invaders. She talked about being hurt emotionally, and it was clear to see. She was.

You don't have to be a celebrity to be vulnerable to the lack of privacy and open invitations to harm others anonymously on the internet. Ugly words are planted everyday by sick, vengeful people whose chief goal is to bring a public figure down.

Perhaps there is no turning back, especially when considering the number of technological opportunities to poison a person's reputation.

But let us beware. Something appearing on the internet regarding, or in association with a person does not validate the words or make real these possiblly twisted fictions. The question always to ask is, "Who planted these words and for what reason?"

This is a banquet of a time for cowardly, mentally ill people to sneak into the public fabric, their toxic endeavors against others, and have their poisoned words be received without question.

Let's question the printed word and look deeply and personally into our willingness to be led to negative snap judgments!

And remember: whatever is written tells us something very personal about the writer, the opinion and character of the writer, whoever he or she may be; and nothing at all about the subject of the writing.