Rocco: Adam, Eve and a very private cave.

Last week I got involved in a friendly dispute with a comrade here at Bogpaper Towers, techno whizz James Eadon. [In the comments for James’ “Email sent. You have been crypto shafted” if you’re interested.] It was over the nature of privacy, or rather, whether such a thing as a Right to Privacy exists. As I’m Bogpaper’s only private-property anarchist, it might shock you to learn that I was of the opinion that there is no such thing as a Right to Privacy. And yes, on the face of it, I suppose it does seem a little strange. Not just for such an extreme libertarian, but for anyone at all to deny that a Right to Privacy exists. But deny it I did. And I still do.

Anyway, this friendly dispute of ours reminded me of a tale I heard when I was but knee-high to a grasshopper. It was about a couple, who, at that point, were the only two people in the whole world. I’d like to tell this tale to you now, readers. But being, as it was, such a long time ago, I’ve forgotten the real names of those involved. So, purely for convenience sake, I’ll call them Adam and Eve. And who knows, perhaps we might be able to learn something about the relationship between privacy and property along the way. Something that applies even in this, the age of the internet. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin…

A long, lost time ago, in a land far, far away, there lived a man called Adam and a woman called Eve. They were in love with one another, and they had the whole world to themselves. Not only that, but for some unknown reason – fate, perhaps – they were provided with just about everything they could ever want.  In fact, it’d be true to say that Eve was wholly content with her existence. Adam, though, was different. It’s not that he was unhappy. Not by a long chalk. If he had to put a number on it, he would say that he was 99% happy. The remainder was more  dissatisfaction, or a kind of ‘tension’ than unhappiness. It crept up on Adam from time to time, and since then it has remained  common for those of the male sex to experience a similar feeling, or urge, sporadically. Even men perfectly happy with their wives/girlfriends experience it. The more worldly amongst you may have already guessed what I’m alluding to. But lets just say, Adam felt the urge to spend some time alone every now and then. And when he returned to Eve, he felt lighter on his feet, as the saying goes.

To this end, Adam had decorated a cave in the vicinity of his and Eve’s home with some rather imaginative cave paintings. When I say ‘imaginative’, I mean very imaginative. And these were incredibly detailed paintings, too, for the time at least. And the cave was full of these paintings.

Of course Eve was none the wiser about any of this, and Adam saw no need to tell her. Honestly, he was embarrassed by his urges, ashamed of the cave. So every now and then, Adam would sneak off to this special cave, careful to make sure Eve didn’t follow him. For many a year Adam was able to do this undisturbed. Then one day, Eve became curious. Where was her fella going? What was he up to? Why was he always in such a good mood when he returned? Eve was determined to find the answer to these questions. So the next day, when Adam mumbled something about having to check something, or find something, or make sure of something, and not knowing when he’d be back, but there was no need for Eve to come, no, no need at all, she should stay here, and he’d be back in a bit, he wouldn’t be that long, so just stay right here – she saw her opportunity. And very, very quietly, and leaving a little distance between them, she followed Adam. Followed Adam to the cave.

“Oh, Adam!” she cried in disgust. “Oh, Adam! This is where you’ve been coming? This is what you’ve been getting up to? These line drawings of women – you prefer these to me? Oh, Adam!”, etc. And Adam thought to himself “Right, come on, man. Think! What to say, what to say?” And it was at this point, in his desperation, that Adam invented a new word: Privacy. “Ha ha!” he cried. “You, Eve, are the one in the wrong here. You have invaded my Privacy!” Adam seemed very proud of this new invention.

Eve stared blankly at Adam. This was not surprising, for she’d never heard of ‘privacy’ before. She asked what was meant by this new word. Adam was silent for a moment. Then: “Well, you know when you’re doing something that you don’t want anyone else to know about, yeah? Well, privacy is the name for the fact that no one knows what you’re doing, when you don’t want anyone to know what you’re doing.” Eve was not impressed by this new word. “So, privacy is just the mere coincidence, the happy accident that things you don’t want anyone to know about, they don’t, in fact, know about? That’s pretty rubbish, dude”, she said. Adam blushed.

“Ah, but wait!” said Adam. “I had the Expectation of Privacy, didn’t I?” “Expectation?” said Eve. “Yeah. I didn’t think you knew where this cave was. That means I could expect not to be disturbed.” Eve was not impressed by this new concept. “So, just because you don’t want anyone to know what you’re up to, and you don’t know that it’s possible for someone to find out what you’re up to – that means no one is allowed to find out what you’re up to? You didn’t think they could know, so they’re not allowed to know? That’s pretty rubbish, dude.” said Eve. Again Adam blushed.

But he quickly recovered. “Yeah, but it’s more than that, though. Everyone has the Right to Privacy”. Eve was stunned. She had no idea what this meant. “Go on then. What does that mean?” she asked. “Well, it means that the stuff that you don’t want people to know about, they’re not allowed to know about, yeah?” Eve was sceptical to say the least. “So where does this Right to Privacy come from, then?” she enquired. “Well, from the fact that whoever doesn’t want anyone else to know a certain thing, would much prefer it if no one else knew about that thing.” Eve was distinctly unimpressed by this new term. “So, the mere fact that you don’t want anyone else to know a certain thing, means that no one is allowed to know that thing? That’s pretty rubbish, dude”, she said. Once more, Adam blushed.

He was about to admit defeat, when suddenly, out of the blue, it hit him! The proof he needed was all around them. This cave they stood in. No longer was it just as he’d found it. He had mixed his labour with it – the erotic line drawings were standing proof of that. This was no longer simply ‘a cave’, no longer ‘the cave’. No, this was Adam’s cave. He had made it his own. As such he could set the rules on who could, and who couldn’t enter his cave. It was this – the fact that the cave belonged to him – not some airy concept or piece of wordplay that guaranteed he could occasionally spend some quality time alone in the future. He owned the cave, so everyone else must keep out, unless he gave them permission to enter. He had no need for fictional ‘privacy rights’, he had real property rights.

He explained all this to Eve. And while she was not exactly happy that Adam would be free to visit his cave, with its walls covered in lewd sketches, in the future, she was at least happy that his argument was now built on solid foundations. And Adam? Well, lets just say Adam was very happy with the way things turned out. And some say, that if you look hard enough, you can still find Adam’s cave even now. You’ll be able to recognise it from the sign at the mouth which reads: “Property of Adam. No girls allowed!”

The End.

Well that’s the tale, readers. I hope it’ll prove to be as helpful to you, as it was to me. And if not, I hope it proved to be diverting at least. Come back next week, when our topic will be: “Ten top tips for the perfect Selfie”. See you there!

14 comments on “Rocco: Adam, Eve and a very private cave.

  1. Anthem
    September 30, 2013 at 4:58 pm #

    Just playing a bit of devil’s advocate here Rocco but am genuinely interested to hear your reply.

    How would you feel if I told you that I’d just read your medical records because your GP was quite happy to let me read through his property (and take copies, if I so wished)?

    (Sorry to read about the genital warts, dude. They sound nasty!)

    • Rocco
      September 30, 2013 at 5:42 pm #

      Actually, Anthem, in the more fashionable parts of Europe, genital warts are considered this season’s must have! 😀

      But this is really no great puzzle – the question is whether I’ve contracted with my doctor to keep my medical records private. If so, he’s in breach of contract and should be punished. This, too, would be a function of property. We have a contract at all because I have transferred ownership of a certain amount of money to him. If he breaks that contract he has committed theft, by taking money for a service he has not performed.

      If I haven’t secured his silence, then I can’t complain. In this case, he behaves in an un-gentlemanly fashion, outrageously even – but not in a criminal fashion. And what you do with your property (the copies) is your business. As is whether you want to go around telling people in a face-to-face manner. I might not like it, but that doesn’t change anything.

      • Anthem
        September 30, 2013 at 6:26 pm #

        Thanks for reply, Rocco. But isn’t this where things get a bit blurry?

        In the case of a doctor, it is probably all part of his Code of Conduct that Patient Confidentiality is respected (in this context, patient confidentially is basically your right to privacy). When we register with a doctor, it is a given that he won’t leave our medical records lying around in the waiting room for other patients to read while they’re awaiting their own appointment.

        To widen the scope of this then this is sort of thing that I think was being argued in the comments on the other thread.

        Replace the doctor with your Internet Service Provider. Every time you log onto the internet, there will be a log of which sites you visited etc. Ditto the phone calls you make on your mobile phone, the text messages you send etc

        This data is the property of the ISP and your phone provider and is theirs to give/sell to anyone who might be interested in having it.

        In the case of the government who clearly don’t respect property rights (so any such contract you have with your doctor, ISP or mobile network isn’t worth the paper – they can push anything through if its for saving the kiddies or combating terrorism etc), it seems we are powerless to stop them gathering as much information as they want about every last connection we might make with the digital world and if, for whatever reason, they choose to use it against us, then that’s just tough.

        I hear where you’re coming from, I just find myself with a sense (yes, crap, I know) that there’s something being missed here but I can’t quite identify it right now.

        I suspect it has something to do with why you would even want to contract with your doctor to keep your records private and I suspect that it is something along the lines that you consider it desirable that he does so.

        It is also desirable for everyone else equally (and your right to privacy isn’t to my or anyone else’s detriment) so I can’t see why anyone would go to any great lengths to denounce the right to privacy in relation to extensions of our property (in this case, our most basic property – our own life).

      • Rocco
        September 30, 2013 at 7:23 pm #

        I don’t deny that it’s highly desirable for people in everyday life to respect one another’s privacy. To not go rooting through each others bins, not stare through peoples windows, not follow each other around etc. But how many things are desirable? Does something become a right simply because it’s desired?

        But then, what kind of a right is the right to privacy? Is it a positive or a negative right? In the doctor/warts example, it can be seen clearly that it is a positive right: it is the demand that the doctor must remain silent when he would rather speak. It is the demand that the doctor must not use his property in a non aggressive way, or face punishment. And that is the key point, that it’s a non aggressive act.

        Now, Anthem, I don’t need to tell you that positive rights are not real rights. So I’m going to some lengths to denounce the right to privacy because it isn’t a real right, and it’s important to have sound foundations for our arguments.

  2. Anthem
    September 30, 2013 at 8:09 pm #

    I knew as soon as I posted that that using the word “desirable” was wrong. You’re quite right to say that just because something is desirable, it doesn’t make it a right.

    I think what I am leaning towards here is that an invasion of privacy is some kind of assault and I would have thought that anything which protects from harm is a negative right – it prevents someone doing something to you which causes you harm.

    The problem I have with many so-called “rights” is that they necessarily impose on the true rights of others in their implementation.

    As I said earlier, accepting the right to privacy does not affect anyone negatively but it does affect everyone positively.

    I’m still grasping for the missing piece of the picture here, though.

    • Rocco
      September 30, 2013 at 8:44 pm #

      Accepting the Right to Privacy certainly does affect people negatively, though. It neccessarily involves using force against them, when they themselves have not initiated force.

      Say, you know I’m having an affair. You want to tell my missus, but I invoke my right to privacy and you are legally prevented from telling her. Now what has happened here? Is telling our lass that I’m cheating an act of aggression? Is your speaking, your imparting of your knowledge inherently an aggressive act? Is your using your vocal chords something that is an infringement of some right of mine? How can it be? I don’t own you, I don’t own your vocal chords, I don’t own the knowledge in your head. Yet, if I have a Right to Privacy, I must do! I via the State, can force you, at the point of a gun, to behave in a certain way.

      • Anthem
        September 30, 2013 at 9:21 pm #

        The fact that you are using an affair as an example means that the information isn’t really private. A third party is intrinsically involved in the scenario (it is as much his or her information as it is your own) and so it is therefore not your own exclusively private property.

        I think it also depends on how the information was gleaned.

        Did they use force to obtain the information?

        I can’t help but feel that you’re conflating two separate issues here.

        My saying, at the point of a gun, that you cannot vocalise the knowledge in your head is obviously a breach of your rights.

        My saying that there are certain methods of obtaining the knowledge is a breach of MY rights is altogether different.

        Did you hack my phone? Did you read my emails? Did you bug my bedroom?

        Or was I just sat in the park blabbering to anyone who passed that I was having an affair?

        Was I actually snogging the face off my lover in the middle of the street?

        I think I have a right to believe that I am protected from the first but I’ve waved them all away if I’m guilty of either of the second two.

      • Rocco
        September 30, 2013 at 9:55 pm #

        Anthem, the woman I’m having a (hypothetical) affair with can’t possibly be considered a third party. She’s integral to the act. Without her, I wouldn’t be having a (hypothetical) affair. Also, my point is that information (knowledge) is not private property. In fact, information, because it isn’t scarce, can’t be property at all. (But even if it were, property doesn’t have to be owned by just one person in order to be private.)

        But you’re right: it depends on how tte information was gleaned. That is precisely what matters. That is all that matters. Hacking a phone is wrong. Hacking into a computer is wrong. Secretly bugging someones house is wrong. And why? Because they are all acts of trespass, they’re all invasions of private property. In the piece, it’s wrong for Eve to enter Adam’s cave b because it is his property, and he denies her the right to enter. Likewise, if unbeknownst to you, I were to hide cameras around your house and film you secretly, this would be an act of aggression against your property. So yes, you do indeed have the right to be protected from such things. But that right is a property right, nothing more.

        What I’m saying is that privacy is dependent upon property. It has no independent existence.

  3. Anthem
    October 1, 2013 at 8:28 am #

    OK. I get it now. Thanks Rocco.

    I’d just say consider the following:-

    You’re walking down a street one night, I am walking behind you. There’s only me and you around.

    I now walk right behind you – my toes are almost clipping your heels as we walk, you can almost feel my breath on your neck. You start to feel uncomfortable. You slow down. I slow down. You stop. I stop. You turn to me and say, “Are you following me?”

    “Yes”, I reply.

    “Why?”

    “Because I can”.

    I have absolutely no intention of doing you any physical harm but you feel uncomfortable and intimidated. I’m going to find out where you live. When you lie in bed that night, you’re wondering if I’m still outside your house, just waiting for you to fall asleep. When you go out to work the following day, you double-check that you’ve locked every window and door.

    I perhaps haven’t invaded your privacy – we were both walking down a public street and I have not entered your house or attacked your person.

    Maybe if this went on you would have a case for harassment or something.

    I think that the comments in James Eadon’s original article were something to do with this kind of thing.

    It’s that uncomfortable feeling that we’re being watched, followed, tracked, monitored not just when we’re out and about in our daily lives but when we’re sat at home using our computers and phones etc.

    It might not even be a privacy thing and we’re barking up the wrong tree. It might simply be a freedom thing. A civilised society sets man free from other men. There’s an element of control… manipulation… in all of this following and data gathering.

    I’m grasping again. 🙂

    • Rocco
      October 1, 2013 at 9:09 am #

      First of all, Anthem, I’m very glad you didn’t post that late last night! 😀

      But yes, strictly speaking, there’d be nothing criminal about any of that.

      However. Note what makes such behaviour possible: “public” ownership of streets. (But that’s an issue for another time.)

      I’m glad it makes sense to you now, Anthem. 🙂

  4. therealguyfaux
    October 2, 2013 at 3:47 pm #

    Rocco:

    Isn’t the whole point the use, that the information you wish would remain “private,” will be put to?

    I liken it to a young nubile woman disrobing in such a way that she can be observed by the lecherous Benny Hill type next door. So long as she is blithely unaware he is there, and, let’s say, he never photographs her (this part is important, which I will deal with anon)– nor does he ever make his activity known– can it be said that any harm has truly been done? I say not– there may be something unseemly in what he does, and it may seem a bit incautious on her part to do her part in this– but has anyone been hurt?

    Now– here’s the wrinkle: Our Benny clone has photographed her so that there is a lasting record of her activity. He may never seek to embarrass her on Facebook nor attempt to blackmail her; he may do what, well, frankly, many men do when observing photos of naked women. Up to now, again, no harm done, really. But say his photograph, through no fault of “Benny’s” (or, at any rate not voluntarily on his part) should fall into the hands of someone not as “scrupulous”: When the third person then turns the photograph to his/her advantage, assuming they ever do, on a Sod’s Law model (i.e., when it will do the most damage), who is at fault here, besides Party #3? “Benny,” for the photo, or the Young Lass, for her carelessness? Both?

    Of course, the problem would obviated if she would never get undressed without the curtains being drawn, that’s a given, but she is well within her rights to do so, as long as she does not advertise this fact, and he is well within his rights to look out his own window, even at her, so long as he does not advertise this fact. He hasn’t the right to watch her in a state of deshabille, but rather, it is a “privilege,” if you will. At any rate, he has the power to do so, which power emanates from the fact that he does no wrong to take whatever is on offer the taking of which does not diminish her right to do or not do anything. Once the photo is taken, everything changes; what rights has Person A against Person B, vis a vis Person C?

    Refer to the Wikipedia discussion of Wesley Hohfeld and his theories of Jural Opposites and Jural Correlatives, to see if that will shed any light on, as the notorious limerick says, “…As to who had the right/To do what, and with what, and to whom.”

    • Rocco
      October 2, 2013 at 4:16 pm #

      Guy, I must say, I’m a little disappointed you’ve not linked a Benny Hill clip!
      😀
      In answer, no one has done anything criminal at all in your example, assuming C got hold of the photo in a non aggressive fashion.

      Nothing changes because the photo has been taken. Benny has the right to look at the lady, he has the right to photograph her, then look at the photo – he has the right to remember her and recall that memory, does he not? – the other chap (along with everyone else in the world) has the right to look at a photo, and if he is the legitimate owner, he has the right to publish it.

      Imagine if the photo were of her doing the pots, fully clothed, with the curtains open. In this case, no one would think this was a special case. Unfortunately, if you walk around naked, you run certain risks. Especially if you leave your curtains open while your doing it.

      Please note, I’m saying this is acceptable socially or morally. Only that nothing criminal has taken place.

    • Rocco
      October 2, 2013 at 4:24 pm #

      In fact, Guy, just to make this plain:

      If you’re in your house with the curtains open, you are, visually at least, in public. So this isn’t even a privacy issue at all.

  5. Rocco
    October 2, 2013 at 4:47 pm #

    Guy, a similar case would be next door neighbours having noisy sex. It’s not wrong to overhear this, is it? The risk of being overheard is partand parcel of such an activity.
    Nor is it wrong to record it somehow. It’s not wrong to use a recording device in your home, is it? As the recording would be the legitimate property if the recorder, their playing it to willing listeners would be entirely legitimate.

    The noisy couple can have no complaints about any of this. They voluntarily engaged in activity that by its very nature was public.

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