Privacy, We Hardly Knew Ye
Facebook is reverting us to a pre-urban state: David Frum
By Matt Cantor, Newser User
Posted Mar 18, 2013 1:10 PM CDT
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., Thursday, March 7, 2013.   (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

(Newser) – Between Facebook and cell phone videos that propel any unguarded moment into a viral one, we spend a fair amount of time these days bemoaning the loss of privacy. But the truth is, privacy has only existed for a matter of decades, writes David Frum at CNN. "For most of the past 10,000 years, most people lived in tiny farming villages, where everybody knew everything about them and about all their family." Privacy, as EB White pointed out, "was born in the city."

And the city as a majority way of life in the US is fairly recent—as recent as 1920, based on the US Census' conception of urban life: making a home in a community of more than 2,500. Now, "the demise of privacy as a social norm is leading to the demise of privacy as a legal right," since the legal right is based on "reasonable expectation of privacy." Mitt Romney learned that the hard way: It's unlikely Scott Prouty will be prosecuted for his "47%" tape. "Will we in retrospect come to see the urban anonymity celebrated by White as a brief interval in human history?" wonders Frum. Click for his full column.

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Showing 3 of 39 comments
Mar 19, 2013 1:42 PM CDT
Wow. Someone needs to put their critical thinking cap on. Thirty, 100, or 1000 years ago, the government could not track someone's physical location without following them, overhear them without planting bugs or get court orders for wiretaps, read their mail, or peruse their private records without physically going out to do it. And even when they did go out to ask 'town folk', they would have to find informed, knowledgeable, willing informants that were truthful. This physical limitation meant every intrusion of a person's privacy required time, money, effort, and round the clock manpower. It's is literally gotten now with the click of a button for hundreds of millions of people. Personal correspondence, phone calls, gps tracking, social communications, etc, all are obtained by the US Government for millions without warrant or our knowledge. Hardly knew? Indeed, we hardly knew the information age before the government overstepped it's mandate and started spying on it's citizens.
Mar 19, 2013 12:18 PM CDT
1984-brave new world-here now! welcome to obamastan!
Mar 18, 2013 2:59 PM CDT
The article is absurd on its face. Growing up in a small community yes everyone knows everyone, but it is sloppy logic that leads to the conclusion that everyone know everything about everyone. And worse just because your neighbors know many things about you didn't mean people outside of your community did or that you would want them too. So I am sorry White was wrong, privacy existed prior to urbanization and should exist now. Now as then it is "us" who should determine who knows what about "us"