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When the founding fathers wrote the constitution and granted the people of the United States a list of unalienable rights, they forgot, or perhaps they deliberately excluded, one specific right: privacy. According to Milan Kundera, author of Testaments Betrayed, privacy is a basic human right and denying this right would be a crime. Kundera also declared that people are more likely to share heretical ideas and to talk in outrageous ways in the privacy of their homes and among their friends. Kundera concluded that privacy is a curtain that shields the personal life from the public life, and therefore, privacy should be respected. Overall, the preservation of privacy is an important issue, but there exists certain circumstances in which the limitation of privacy could facilitate our daily lives and promote security.
The promise of privacy is vital in establishing trust between doctors and their patients as well as therapists and their customers. Because privacy is recognized as a right of all human beings, violating patient confidentiality codes can result in serious legal issues for medical providers. In fact, privacy is so important that certain individuals pay therapists and shrinks to listen to their family and personal issues rather than risk confiding in close friends who have no legal obligation to keep their secrets. Privacy equates to dignity, and dignity is a right rather than a privilege. Because few people would still possess an untarnished reputation once their darkest secrets had become revealed to the public, the concept of privacy exists to protect people from the potential backlash of their personal decisions. The regulations that protect patient confidentiality in certain professions exist to support Kundera’s idea that personal life must not be tampered with.
However, there are situations that warrant a potential breach of privacy. Many individuals are willing to surrender some aspects of their privacy in order to make their lives easier. People are aware that corporations collect detailed information about potential consumers through their searches and purchases on the internet. These companies sell this data about consumers to marketers who attempt to target shoppers based on everything from their interests and needs to their income and clothing size. Although opposition has risen for this invasion of privacy, the vast majority of people are unwilling to sacrifice the usefulness of the internet.
Especially in times when the United States faces imminent danger or when it feels threatened, the privacy of the people may be compromised for the sake of national security. For instances, if all actions are properly promulgated, the government can take away some privacy from the American people. However, as demonstrated by the outrage following Edward Snowden’s revelation of the National Security Association’s attempt to spy on the people’s phone calls and internet communication, one may conclude that privacy is indeed a valuable right to Americans. Under the guise of the Patriot Act which helps to enforce national security, the NSA monitored international calls made to or from the United States and gathered personal information that they should not have access to. Many Americans supported Kundera’s statement when they expressed fury for the invasion of privacy, feeling as if the government had deprived them of their basic rights. Additionally, increased transparency from the government could have prevented this invasion of privacy from being classified as a crime against humanity.
Overall, all individuals, corporations, and governments should respect privacy as a basic civil right. Like Kundera said, the invasion of privacy is a crime which strives to combine two incompatible worlds: the personal life and the public life. This aphorism has been supported for decades and centuries by the presence of confidentiality codes between patients and their medical providers as well as the regulations for personal privacy found among the laws that govern the United States. The invasion of privacy can only be acceptable in instances where the people willingly choose to relinquish some of their privacy in exchange for personal conveniences or for protection from international threats. Even with the lingering threat of terrorism, the threat of the absence of privacy still haunts many Americans in a more profound manner.
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