For the sake of transparency, let’s protect privacy

I spent a two-decade career as a journalist persuading people to tell me things I was not supposed to know. I worked with some of the best investigative reporters in the world and couldn’t get enough of “secret” stuff, whether it was significant or not. It was an insatiable itch. And each new snippet gleaned was a minor triumph.

This week I realized something. I just don’t want to know any more. I don’t want to know what is in people’s private emails. I don’t want to know things that might actually harm people for no reason. It is not that my curiosity had become dulled. It is that there has been too much. I have gorged and if I have to eat another morsel I think I will throw up.

I already have a sour stomach.

I didn’t want to know Simone Biles has ADHD and was given a special approval for Ritalin I am still not sure how Ritalin helps that gravity defying brilliance. But now Biles has an asterisk next to her name like many of the baseball sluggers we have come to loathe.

ADVERTISEMENT
I would actually have preferred to not know that Colin Powell dared to privately say what we all think about our presidential choices. He is human, and a politician, and far from perfect, but I take no pleasure in the armor of one of the great Americans of the end of the last century being pointlessly tarnished. What do we all gain?

Are the inner workings of the DNC really laundry that needed to be aired? Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders: Senate healthcare fight 'totally bananas' Overnight Defense: Military won't lift transgender ban until Trump sends directions | House passes national security spending | Russian sanctions bill heads to Trump Overnight Cybersecurity: Senate sends Russia sanctions bill to Trump | Senators unveil email privacy bill | Russia tried to spy on Macron with Facebook MORE made no bones of what he thought of the DNC, so should we expect anything other than the DNC try to undermine him? Why is that a national story, other than prurient interest and delicious for those who disliked dethroned DNC Queen Deborah Wasserman Schultz anyway.

But such is life in our “Cloud” society; where privacy is a quaint anachronism. Of course we asked for this, the first time we clicked agree on a user agreement for that Apple app, Facebook login or cookies agreement that none of us ever read. But those didn’t really mean anything, did they? Besides, this seems so different. Those organizations just want to track our private information and habits to make money.

This new round is so much more sinister.

So how many of your emails and pictures do you want to share with the world because as we are all pushed to store more and more in the cloud, more will become exposed.

There will always be a place for uncovering wrongdoing and corruption, and there will always be things people do not want known, that should be known. Cracking Donald TrumpDonald TrumpSanders: Scaramucci let his passion get the best of him OPINION | Michael Steele: Yes, GOP will own ObamaCare failure Overnight Finance: House passes spending bill with border wall funds | Ryan drops border tax idea | Russia sanctions bill goes to Trump's desk | Dems grill bank regulator picks MORE’s tax returns would likely be welcome by many. Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonJudiciary Committee Republicans want a second special counsel: report Fusion GPS: White House trying to smear us on Russia OPINION | Gen. Hayden: How the Russians played the Trumps MORE forfeited the right to privacy when she used her email for official work.

But transparency is rapidly becoming a dirty word. Once it was a noble goal, and that was the point of the Freedom Of Information Act, FOIA, decried as inadequate by many, especially by activist groups who make their living trying to force open government information. But there is at least a system for releasing information.

And besides, there is a line between private and public information.

But we have moved way beyond that.

Jennifer Lawrence takes saucy pics for her beau. Remember those from two years ago? That was an agonizing rarity. Today it would barely merit a nod. And so we get to Edward Snowden, the Moscow-residing self-proclaimed whistleblower. Defender of American privacy, the man dedicated to keeping government prying eyes away.

A new film from serial mis-portrayer Oliver Stone casts Snowden as a real life James Bond serving us all. So let’s forget the group of Republican and Democrat congressmen who actually read all the classified information and unanimously asked President Obama not to pardon Snowden because of the damage he did to the country he supposedly loves. Also a note to NPR correspondent Mary Louise Kelly, who casually said neither anybody had died nor terrorist attacks happened because of Snowden. Actually you can’t say that because nobody knows, it’s classified.

Compromised intelligence today may have lead or could lead to missed opportunities.

And here’s a new dimension, we don’t know whether the Russian hackers currently pilfering our collective privacy are working off Snowden information.

It is somewhat ironic, then, that, just has he is being hailed on the big screen, Snowden may have actually done more to speed the end of our privacy than help reinforce it. That is perhaps not quite as heroic.

Gelb is the director of the Washington Media Institute and a co-founder of DCWitness.org. Follow DCWitness on Twitter @dcwitness


 

The views expressed by Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.