The lack of moral outrage around the recent Supreme Court case — finding that anyone charged of a crime can be strip searched, even when there is no evidence of contraband or concealed weapons — may be the result of the relaxation of our sense of privacy, in general.
Strip-Search Case Reflects Death of American Privacy - Noah Feldman via Bloomberg
There are two main drivers pushing privacy into the dustbin of history, and both are related to technology. One is the increasing effectiveness of government surveillance. Cameras follow you in most public places in London today, and New York is catching up. Diffusion scanners at the airport already show you essentially naked. The coalition Conservative-Liberal Democratic government in the U.K. is preparing to allow the state to collect, without a warrant or even suspicion, all information on calls or texts except the content. The government’s ability to do all of these things causes many of us to think, irrationally, that it is reasonable for it to do so.
The other driving force is our increasing willingness to sacrifice privacy for practical advantage. When you sign up for a free Gmail account, you agree to allow a computer program to read all your e-mails. This is hardly a secret: The ads that pop up on your browser often relate to the text of the e-mail you have sent or received. Google Inc. gambled that people would rationalize the loss of privacy by saying that no human was reading the text. Google was right. The list goes on: Global-positioning-system technology on your mobile phone helps you find out where you are — and enables anyone with access to your provider to do the same.
We all know that our sense of privacy has been changing. It seems that every time you ride the bus you hear one-half of the most intimate conversations imaginable — emanating from a total stranger with a phone to his ear. The justices cannot help but be affected by these trends. Privacy is defined constitutionally by “reasonable expectation” of what should be private. This may sound circular, but it is in fact inevitable. The concept of privacy is inherently flexible, and the less we value it, the less our judicial institutions will protect it for us.
And if we drop our ‘reasonable expectations’ then we may be less surprised when people have to drop their pants, as well.
We are moving to a coercively public society, where publicy is the norm, and privacy — or the demand for it — will be cast as the intimation of illegal, immoral, or unreasonable behavior. This is why prospective employers believe they are justified in asking candidates for their facebook passwords, despite the illegality of ‘show-ercion’ of this sort.
And the publicy bias is going to grow.