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Some thoughts on privacy

by on November 3, 2015

Based on our class discussion on privacy, I wanted to use this blog post opportunity to talk about some of my thoughts using a few of the bullet points pulled from today’s handout.

The first bullet point that sparked my attention was “Use footage from a camera placed in an emergency room? In a prison cell?” This made me think about 10TH Cir. Rules to keep prison murder images private from this weeks scheduled readings. The reading basically touches on the debate of publicly releasing the murder tape of an inmate in regards to the sensitivity of the victim’s family.  Despite Prison Legal News’ efforts to use the footage in the name of holding prisons accountable for what goes on within, the 10th Circuit found that publicizing the tapes goes against the privacy interests of the family and decided against the notion of releasing the footage. For me, it’s hard and I find myself seeing both sides to the argument. Sensitive documents of this nature should first and foremost be in the hands of those involved- the family. But on the other side, as noted in the reading, prisons are considered one of the least transparent of all government agencies, so in the name of prisoner advocacy, maybe the release of these documents is necessary. So in relating all of this back to the original scenario proposed to us- is it ethical to use footage from a prison cell? Well, I would say it depends. If it’s an issue of advocacy- then yes. If it’s an issue of sensitivity- probably not. In a perfect world we’d get that compromise where the journalist would talk to the family and get their consent by explaining the public service of footage exposure in the name of the future lives of prisoners that could be saved. In this case, striving for that balance would lead my personal course of action.

Another point I’d like to elaborate on from the class handout is publicizing a victim’s name, a rape victim’s name, a domestic abuse victim’s name, a child-victim’s name or an accused rapist victim’s name. Pulling from another one of this week’s readings, “Name Withheld, but Not His Identity”, Arthur Brisbane brings up a number of points that have begun to shape my opinion on the matter. The Times’ decision to publish enough background information on “Victim 1” during the Jerry Sandusky case for the general public to draw conclusions on the victim’s exact name exemplifies this challenge. While The Times strayed away from releasing the boy’s name, they still disclosed his identity, which raises just as many ethical issues. Victims choose not to come forward for the exact reason that they don’t want their name to be publicly exposed. The Times’ article did just that- and it could be something that prevents future victims from speaking up. That’s why I’d say publish the story- but don’t release the name and don’t releasing enough information for people to draw conclusions on the name. I think that goes the same for all victims, not just victims of sexual assault. Only release the name if there’s consent from the individual to release it. Without the ‘okay’, I can’t really see the point in its release. How much more to the story does the name of this individual even really add?

I think my views on a lot of these ethical scenarios of privacy are centered around trying to get some level of consent before moving forward. Is that unrealistic of me?

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