General Petraeus and Privacy

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Whatever one may think of the indiscretions of CIA Director Petraeus, there is something deliciously ironic and incredibly scary in the nation’s top spook getting entangled in the public disclosure of private e-mails. As the Executive Director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center stated to the Washington Post,  “[i]f the C.I.A. director can get caught, it’s pretty much open season on everyone else.”  What nobody understands is how prophetic these words actually are.

With access to e-mails and other electronic trails, there is exponential linkage to every scandal. Think the Kevin Bacon Game or Six Degrees of Separation and it won’t take long to link you to Paula Broadwell, Jill Kelley and General Petraeus. This underscores the critical need to restrict government control of and access to private information, as well as the importance of establishing strong rules regarding the unauthorized use of such information by government and private businesses.

Our current legal framework to protect privacy is akin to the color coded terror alerts that did nothing to protect us, but did everything to scare us.  Lip service to the idea of privacy is no more useful. If we are going to protect our privacy, we need to hold accountable those who violate our privacy with something more robust than a notification your privacy has been breached. Privacy rights with no remedies provide no rights at all. All it does is create an open season on us all.