Glenn Greenwald had flown halfway around the world to Hong Kong to meet with the man he didn’t yet know was Edward Snowden. He didn’t have a name, or any idea what this person looked like. Glenn had various guesses and expected him to be in his 50s or 60s- someone nearing the end of their life, willing to sacrifice their freedom after witnessing decades of NSA abuse. All he knew as he prepared to meet this person is that they would be holding an unsolved Rubick’s Cube. It seemed like something out of a movie, and I laughed as I read the Rubick’s Cube part. When I bought No Place To Hide, by Glenn Greenwald on audible, I didn’t know what to expect, and thought it might be a boring mess of technical jargon. I was pleased to find out it was quite the opposite and I listened to the book straight though over one 10-hour work day. The story is exciting and astonishing, yet told in a way anybody can understand. My favorite part of the book is chapter 4, which is chapter 7 if you listen to the audiobook version. The entirety of this chapter is about the importance of privacy and how we behave differently when we know we’re being watched and judged. Later that morning, I rode my bike down Western Ave and noticed another Keep Havin’ A Good Day. I wondered how many cameras had recorded me on my bike ride or if people were spying on me from upper floor windows or passing trains, but I guess that’s the trick, always make people think there’s a possibility of being watched at any time.
“Only when we believe that nobody else is watching us do we feel free–safe– to truly experiment, to test boundaries, to explore new ways of thinking and being, to explore what it means to be ourselves. What made the Internet so appealing was precisely that it afforded the ability to speak and act anonymously, which is so vital to individual exploration.
For that reason, it is in the realm of privacy where creativity, dissent, and challenges to orthodoxy germinate. A society in which everyone knows they can be watched by the state- where the private realm is effectively eliminated- are one in which those attributes are lost, at both the societal and the individual level.” -Glenn Greenwald, No Place To Hide
“…the desire for privacy is shared by us all as an essential, not ancillary, part of what it means to be human. We all instinctively understand that the private realm is where we can act, think, speak, write, experiment, and choose how to be, away from the judgmental eyes of others. Privacy is a core condition of being a free person.
Perhaps the most famous formulation of what privacy means and why it is so universally and supremely desired was offered by the U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis in the 1928 case Olmstead v. U.S.: “The right to be left alone is the most comprehensive of rights, and the right most valued by a free people.” The value of privacy, he wrote, “is much broader in scope,” than mere civic freedoms. It is, he said, fundamental:
The makers of our Constitution undertook to secure conditions favorable to the pursuit of happiness. They recognized the significance of man’s spiritual nature, of his feelings and of his intellect. They knew that only a part of the pain, pleasure and satisfactions of life are to be found in material things. They sought to protect Americans in their beliefs, their thoughts, their emotions and their sensations. They conferred, as against the government, the right to be let alone.” -from No Place To Hide, Glenn Greenwald
“Privacy is essential to human freedom and happiness for reasons that are rarely discussed but instinctively understood by most people, as evidenced by the lengths to which they go to protect their own. To begin with, people radically change their behavior when they know they are being watched. They will strive to do that which is expected of them. They want to avoid shame and condemnation. They do so by adhering tightly to accepted social practices, by staying within imposed boundaries, avoiding action that might be seen as deviant or abnormal.
The range of choices people consider when they believe that others are watching is therefore far more limited than what they might so when acting in a private realm. A denial of privacy operates to severely restrict one’s freedom of choice.” -Glenn Greenwald, No Place To Hide