Tag Archives: Ethics

Secrecy vs. Privacy…is there a difference?

This question gave me quite a lot to think about last night. For me, it’s quite black and white. There certainly is a difference and one or the other isn’t necessarily ‘good’ or ‘bad’. They are just…things. Words with dictionary definitions and no emotion attached to them unless placed in context.

Which means the emotions involved would vary every time along with the context. Then I had a conversation. With someone who completely disagrees with my view.

Apparently some people consider privacy and secrecy to be the same thing – and both to be negative. So I listened. Then I thought…a lot! Then I did some research for a broader spectrum of opinions. End result? I still think I’m right. Not just in the way that I always think I’m right though…I mean I actually really truly think I’m right. Which then leads to other issues but thats a whole other story!

So why do I think I’m right? Well because the majority of what I found when researching other people’s views seemed to justify what I already thought.  Also, of those agreeing with me, the voices tended to be of thinking people, writers, philosophers, intelligent people. The more negative responses on secrecy vs. privacy were written by people who sounded like they were worrying…panicking even! Absolutely terrified that their partner (or whoever) might have a private life/thoughts/feelings and therefore by labelling anything private as ‘secret’, they were able to make it sound like a bad thing, unacceptable in the relationship. When actually, in my opinion, what it comes down to is insecurity.

Secrecy to me suggests something shared between two or more people. Something that could be harmful if revealed to another  – but not necessarily to the person keeping the secret. Like ruining a surprise or revealing an extra-marital affair. I don’t keep secrets of a detrimental nature to anyone. I refuse to be involved in anyone’s mistreatment of another person or in causing any kind of upset. I only ever keep a secret if someone has asked me to specifically and it’s not ‘bad’! I mean, does it make me a really terrible person to have a secret shared between myself and my kids about what to buy their nan for her birthday? Of course not. To keep secret my best friends affair with her boss? Yeah, I think so.

Privacy is something belonging to the individual. Mine, yours, his or hers….but it’s things that are not shared with anyone else. My diary – is private, my emails – are private, my texts – are private. None of these things are particularly secret though. There’s nothing bad in there. I haven’t hurt anyone and am not doing anything terrible. It’s just my stuff! I’m allowed you know! Especially considering how transparent I am for the majority of the time with things like my music and my writing…little room for private matters in these areas of honest expression!

The things people keep private vary. Some people don’t mind sharing their passwords, some people don’t mind popping in to use the loo whilst their partners in the shower. Some people mind a lot! It’s not for anyone else to say though, what we can keep private and what we can’t. Privacy is so important. Today more than ever, when people can have a piece of you in so many ways. The idea of privacy has become so distorted in a world where you can just google someones name and find out all sorts of things without ever having even met them!

So where’s the line? Do you open your partners mail? Read your kids diary? Check their emails/texts? Constantly demand to know what people are thinking?

All things that could be validated probably, or at least excused, on one-off occasions. I’m sure many people have done these things at one time or another.  To make it a regular thing though has got to be a bit strange surely?

To demand that your partner have no privacy because you consider it secrecy (and consider both these things to be ‘bad’!) strikes me as a huge trust issue. Additionally, admitting to having ‘trust’ issues doesn’t make it any more acceptable to make these demands. If a person has a trust issue then it is their issue and theirs alone. Whether you can explain that it came about because of past experiences with unfaithful partners, a terrible childhood….whatever…you have no right to inflict your behavioural or learned habits on your loved ones and make them pay for it. If it’s affecting your relationship then surely it’s something you should have dealt with before getting into a relationship?! Getting into a partnership, no matter how close, doesn’t mean giving up your individuality. Two people in an intimate relationship doesn’t mean you have to become one person. 1+1 = 2. Intimacy has many levels, but I don’t believe that of all the sacrifices we make, willingly, for other people, that having no privacy at all should be one of them.

Everyone has a right to their own privacy. A moment alone with their thoughts. Our parents, children, partners, colleagues…we are all entitled to some. I believe it takes quite some skill to be sensitive enough to know where to draw the line between privacy and interfering or prying. Especially with family as this line can be flexible. Sometimes your kids are more open and will confide more in you their private thoughts. Sometimes your partner may withdraw and keep some things a little more private than usual. It’s important to remember this is not about you though. It’s about them. Their privacy. Their right.

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