“to the contention that nothing is private for the prominent, shouldn’t we be saying that privacy is for everyone, and not just for you and me?
To say that, however, you have to believe in private life as a value. I think most of us still do, although it may very well be true that a private life is becoming impossible to lead. But just because it’s fading from existence doesn’t mean that it was never vital.
To live in society at all, we have to keep a reservoir of private thoughts, which, whether wisely or unwisely, we share only with intimates. This sharing of private thoughts is called private life.
Until recently, the concept of private life was basic to civilisation. Its value could be measured by the thoroughness with which totalitarian states and religions always did their best to stamp it out. But now we have to face the possibility that the latest stage of civilisation might also be trying to stamp it out.
You can still keep your thoughts to yourself – nobody has yet invented a machine that can get into your head and broadcast what it finds – but if you try to communicate those private thoughts to anyone else you run an increasing risk that they will be communicated to everyone.
Pinching private phone calls and e- mails ought to be a crime, but somehow it isn’t. And it probably won’t be. There are too many laws as it is; too many of the new laws are useless; and a law against printing anything you can find would probably be seen as an infringement of free speech, even though the unrestricted theft of private messages amounts to an infringement of free speech anyway.