Privacy. The right that many defend but fewer and fewer seem interested in practicing.

I've been thinking about privacy while writing my Web novel, The Unbinding, which is made up of documents obtained from the surveillance of everyday people. When I began the story, news of the NSA telephone intercepts was all over the media. I expected the outrage to grow and grow, but it trailed off rather quickly and precipitously. At the same time, Bush's Pro-Life Supreme Court appointees were settling into their chairs and South Dakota was moving to make abortion very, very rare. One could only conclude that privacy, as an issue, wasn't stirring much passion in the land.

In the land of manic attention-getters, which is what the country's become in the age of American Idol, Oprah, and nonstop self-revelation on the Web. Consider the wild growth of MySpace. Com, a service that grants all who use it at least the hope of obtaining an audience for their biographies. The personal secrets that people broadcast on this and other websites far outstrip, in intrusive depth and detail, anything the government is capable of gathering. Users cough up, without ever being asked, and for the benefit of perfect strangers, every last sexual quirk, obsessive thought and grandiose fantasy that they can render in words. And then they add pictures. Sometimes naked pictures. They spill their souls onto the Web as though trying to purge themselves of loneliness through exhibitionism.

It's not Big Brother prying into our lives that we have to fear, perhaps, but the Little Brother in each of us who craves the notice of others -- even if he has to make mischief to attract it.

The "right to privacy," increasingly, is the right to something not widely cherished. Which is why it's a right that may not last.


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