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Mourning Dinosaurs

09/08/2017

Older people are usually surprised that the right to privacy was not in the Declaration of Independence nor the Bill of Rights — but millennials don’t care.

That “right” was an outgrowth of a 1958 Supreme Court decision, NAACP vs Alabama.  In that case, the state wanted the membership list of the NAACP, including home addresses.  Visions of men wearing white sheets on the front lawn immediately jump into the mind — millennials don’t care.  Just don’t be racist, they say.

In a stream of embarrassing incidents, a major credit reporting agency has just announced the leak of sensitive, identifying information for 143 million individual Americans — millennials don’t care.  Just get a LifeLock subscription, they say.

Millennials believe that the old-fashioned longing for a relatively new right is silly, because everybody knows that “privacy is dead.”  All the nostalgia for privacy is analogous to mourning the death of dinosaurs.  Just get over it, they say!

But, it is not dead — the right to privacy continues to breathe weakly.  There is a website called DreamHost, which organized opposition to President Trump.  The Justice Department has filed suit for the names of all people who visited that website.  Would that chill political debate, if the government can identify people for simply reading a website?  How does that affect freedom of speech, or does it matter?  So far, millennials have not paid attention, but they should.

While I’m not old enough to remember dinosaurs, I am old enough to remember privacy and miss it terribly.  Millennials remember neither.

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