“Why Privacy Matters: What Do We Lose When We Lose Our Privacy?”
A Talk by Roger Berkowitz
We live at a time when calls for privacy protections seem both quaint and nostalgic. Paeans to privacy do not conceal the fact that privacy daily and even hourly is being sacrificed. Newspapers cover the personal lives of movie stars and business people. Politicians are granted zero privacy. Neither are those on welfare. And everyday individuals are subject to a literally incomprehensible surveillance of their movement on city streets and over the internet. Scott McNealy of Sun Microsystems speaks for many when he says: “You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it.” But should the factual loss of privacy lead to the view that if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear? Is it not true that everyone has something to hide? How does the factual loss of our privacy change the experience of the human condition? If surveillance can penetrate both the activity of the street and the desires of our subconscious, where and how will we explore those sometimes heroic and sometimes illicit fantasies and dreams that give sense to human life? Does the demand to sacrifice privacy to make life secure, lawful, and convenient endanger our humanity?
Roger Berkowitz, Academic Director of the Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanities at Bard College, will speak about the conflict between democratic transparency and the human need for a secret life. Assuming that privacy can harbor criminals, perverts, racists, and abusers, he will ask: Is there nevertheless a value of privacy worth defending?
ROGER BERKOWITZ : Academic Director, Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanities at Bard College; Associate Professor of Politics, Philosophy, and Human Rights. He is the Author of The Gift of Science: Leibniz and the Modern Legal Tradition, an account of how the rise of science has led to the divorce of law and justice (Harvard, 2005), and the editor of Revenge and Justice, a special issue of Law, Culture, and the Humanities (2005). His interests include Heidegger, Nietzsche, Justice and Aesthetics.