From the random juxtaposition of things in a feed reader come two posts, one human and passionate, the other dry and analytical, each illuminating the other.

Here first is Julian Sanchez writing about The Trouble With “Balance” Metaphors:

Legal scholar Dan Solove, for instance, argues forcefully that “privacy” is not a monolithic value defined by any singular essence, but a cluster concept defined instead by overlapping family resemblances. (The classic example from Wittgenstein is the idea of a “game,” instances of which range from football to chess to Myst to the unstructured pretend-play of Cops and Robbers.) In Solove’s schema, privacy encompasses an array of quite different interests: Colloquially speaking, we recognize that one’s privacy may be violated by physical intrusion on the seclusion of the home, by the disclosure of sensitive or embarrassing personal facts, by the denial of autonomy to make intimate medical or sexual decisions, by the mere knowledge that one’s actions (even one’s “public” actions) are being systematically monitored and recorded, by having one’s image (again, even an ordinary photograph snapped on a public street) plastered on billboards and television without one’s consent. The point is not, of course, that the law should forbid all these things; merely that we find it perfectly intelligible to describe each as, in some sense, an incursion on privacy.

And here is Sarah Baskerville, still reeling from having her world exploded by the Daily Mail:

I do not live in the public limelight, nor do I actively court the media circus. I do not consider myself to be fair game. I am a private citizen and have rights as such not to have my life plastered across the tabloids. If however I had done something that merited press intrusion (murder, fame, terrorism, espionage etc) then I would consider myself to be “fair game”… however merely owning a blog and Twitter account, being an active user of Social Media does not make one “fair game”. Publishing on the internet/social media platforms is not the same as being published in the national press.

So two views collide. The law does not forbid reference – even critical and distorted reference – to material which has been freely published and is available to all who choose to see it. But that sense of what is legally permissible does not align with what many instinctively feel about their relationship with social media, that despite its technical openness it retains some form of social privacy. Sanchez’ point, though, is an important one:  there is an essential difference between saying that the Daily Mail should not have published and that it should not be allowed to publish, or should be punished for having published. But more important in this context is that argument in reverse:  the fact that something is legal does not make it right.


  1. It is interesting to put these side by side Stefan.

    The messaging pattern used in social media does not fit cleanly into the traditional broadcasting conception of private or public.

    Decoupling of the publisher from subscriber allows, what might otherwise be private messages (such as email), to generate public debate and social capital through collaboration.

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