Re: poly: Pondering Privacy

From: GBurch1 <>
Date: Sat May 16 1998 - 04:42:46 PDT

In a message dated 98-05-14 19:34:02 EDT, Robin Hanson wrote:

> I spent some time today trying to collect my thoughts on privacy.
> The result is:
> Comments welcome.

I'm in the process of reading "The Transparent Society" now and have at least
concluded that David Brin would have been a very good lawyer, so effectively
does he make his case to the reader. Of course, this says nothing about
whether he's right or wrong . . . :-)

I'm sure David makes the point in the later parts of the book, but it seems to
me that there are some (perhaps very few) processes that are made LESS
efficient by transparency, or where transparency is inconsistent with the
value of liberty, which he seems to posit as more fundamental than the vale of
privacy in its various forms.

One such that has come to my mind is a matter of privacy with which I deal
every day, that being the attorney-client privilege. This happens to be in
the forefront of my thinking right now because the values placed on the
privacy of a person's communication with her legal counselor are key issues in
one of my biggest current cases.

At least under the current structure of the legal process, ALMOST inviolable
confidentiality is considered a very high value when a person consults his
lawyer. A sketch of the policy behind this principle runs thus: The system
works best when people have access to the highest quality legal advice; that
advice can only be given effectively when a lawyer is supplied with all of the
facts and a candid rendition of the client's values and goals; such complete
communication is only possible where a person believes that her communication
with her lawyer will be and remain confidential.

It has been my experience that the attorney-client privilege in fact
ultimately encourages honesty and morality in public actions because,
sheltered by a "cone of silence" people will work through scenarios with their
lawyers that they do not feel secure in discussing with anyone else. Thus
protected, the lawyer-as-counselor has opportunities to deter illegal or
harmful conduct not afforded to others. This deterence does not depend on
some fictional superior moral character for lawyers, but rather simply because
the privilege creates an environment in which people can clearly see the
consequences of alternative courses of action.

Similar rationales exist for confidentiality of communication with
psychotherapists. I wonder what the advocates of "radical transparency" say
of such "islands of privacy" -- ones that are protected because they seem to
ENHANCE "virtue", rather than detract from it?

        Greg Burch <>----<>
           Attorney ::: Director, Extropy Institute ::: Wilderness Guide -or-
                   "Good ideas are not adopted automatically. They must
                      be driven into practice with courageous impatience."
Received on Sat May 16 11:45:26 1998

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