Privacy is the sole social apparatus that protects the individual from intrusion. Moreover, privacy is a principle that creates the means for individual dignity and identity. Privacy is vastly important because it protects peoples’ self-interests, and maintains their dignity. As with most complicated legal issues, the right to privacy derives from theoretical and philosophical debate. Thomas Scanlon wrote in the Philosophy and Public Affairs in 1975, privacy should be “a characterization of the special interests we have in being able to be free from certain kinds of intrusions.”
In addition, there are many other aspects of one’s life that should be kept private; medical records, for example. Former President of the American Medical Association, Dr. Malcolm Todd contends, “The average patient doesn’t realize the importance of the confidentiality of medical records. Passing out information on venereal disease can wreck a marriage.” However, peoples’ interest in privacy is not—or should not—be limited to information that could be damaging or embarrassing; a married couple, for example, does not want to be viewed carrying out a normal sex life. Nor do they want strangers to know about their sex life. The couple has nothing to be embarrassed about; nevertheless, if people are viewing or gossiping about their sex life, then their privacy is being violated. This is because a married couple’s sex life is simply none of your business, just as the amount of money in one’s bank account in none of anybody’s business except your own.
Privacy is paramount to maintaining normal social relationships. By ‘social relationships,’ I do not mean anything overly complicated; I simply mean the relationships people ordinarily maintain—husband and wife, friend, brother and sister, and employer and employee. The central point to be made about such relationships is that there are certain patterns associated with each individual relationship. Conversely, there are different patterns associated with different relationships. For example, a man may be a cold-hearted businessperson at work, but a sweet and sensitive husband once he gets home. Alternatively, a person who will curse like a sailor around his friend and will be extremely polite around his parents. Social norms suggest that people are the most real in situations where they are the most comfortable. However, it would be irrational to suggest that the aforementioned cold-hearted businessperson is really a sweet, and caring person whose businesslike attitude at work is merely a front; and the man who is crude around his friends but polite around his mother is simply putting on a front to not be disowned by her. This is because the conception of how one ought to act is determined by the situation. One may find it completely appropriate to curse freely in one situation, while in another situation, the same person would find cursing offensive. There is nothing untruthful or hypocritical about any of the aforementioned behavior, no set of actions in a particular social relationship can characterize a person as the ‘real’ person any more than the actions of a person in a different social relationship.