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The U.S. Needs to Recognize Intimate Privacy as a Civil Right

Digital privacy invasion is inextricably linked to equality

This story is adapted from The Fight for Privacy: Protecting Dignity, Identity, and Love in the Digital Age, by Danielle Keats Citron.

In a 2019 press release, New York Attorney General Letitia James highlighted the significance of her office’s settlement agreement with the dating app Jack’d for LGBTQ+ people. For an entire year, the company had ignored reports that subscribers’ private photos were not stored securely. James condemned the company for ignoring the problem knowing that 80 percent of its subscribers were gay, bi and trans people of color who might face hate crimes and bullying from photo leaks. The app had wrongly prioritized its profits over subscribers’ privacy and safety.

James could have centered her remarks on the company’s “unfair and deceptive” practices—​after all, that was why her office had jurisdiction over the app’s security failure. Instead, she emphasized privacy’s inextricable link to equality. Subscribers would only feel free to engage in sexual expression if the app could be trusted to keep their photos secure from those who might discriminate against them due to their sexual orientation, race or gender non-conformity.

But as James made clear, privacy invasions aren’t solely consumer protection matters. Companies’ mishandling of our intimate information doesn’t just involve broken promises or unfair commercial practices, though Jack’d had violated its pledge to “maintain reasonable security practices” and ignored reports that its databases were insecure. Ex-partners’ or strangers’ privacy violations (like the nonconsensual taking, faking or sharing our intimate images) aren’t harmless antics or the residue of bad breakups. Governments’ pervasive surveillance of intimate life isn’t ordinary bureaucratic overreach. Corporate, individual, and government privacy invaders would like us to view them that way—​all the easier to maintain the status quo. Invasions of intimate privacy are not only sources of profit, retaliation or law and order. They are far more than that.

Please select this link to read the complete article from WIRED.

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