Posner: “Privacy is Overrated”

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The distinguished legal scholar and jurist Richard Posner, a dominant figure in the modern Chicago Law and Economics movement, can be provocative and insightful, but his latest column, “Privacy is Overrated,” largely misfires. Posner’s crude utilitarianism often leads him to bizarre, almost sophomoric, conclusions (David Gordon is not a fan [1, 2]), and he argues here that the state’s security needs override the individual’s desire not to be snooped on. He begins by noting that neither the word “privacy” nor the concept is in the Constitution, apparently unaware of the Ninth Amendment. No worries about government surveillance cameras, because they’re not (yet?) in our bedrooms, and anyway, “[o]ur government is not totalitarian.” Posner acknowledges concerns about government access to computer files and other personal data, but thinks civil libertarians don’t “appreciate that this is a two-way street. Surveillance technology used by our government is also used by our enemies. We must keep up; we cannot resign from the technological revolution.” Yes, Al-Qaeda is not only under my bed, it’s in my computer. Judge Posner, get it out!

8:08 am on May 1, 2013