Privacy, We Hardly Knew Ye

Facebook is reverting us to a pre-urban state: David Frum

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 18, 2013 1:10 PM CDT

(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.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., Thursday, March 7, 2013.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., Thursday, March 7, 2013.   (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
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