EDITORIAL: Right to privacy and responsibility for transparency

by Jan 26, 2018OPINIONS0 comments





The wife and I use an app (short for application-you know, those little do-dads on your phone that make life “interesting”) called Life360. It basically will pinpoint the location of my phone for her, and vice versa, any time of the day or night. It alerts me when she leaves the house, and it alerts her when I do the same. I can touch an area on the screen, and it will send a “check-in” message to her letting her know I am ok.

Now, before you start thinking that it is time for us to see a marriage counselor or old Robert’s about to become a free agent, let me tell you why we use the app, and what we don’t use it for. This is not a tool we use to find out what each other is doing. The days of sowing wild oats are long gone, and we don’t have trust issues. We do have enough concern for each other that it is important for us to be able to see where each other of us are in times of uncertainty. We care enough about each other to want to be able to lend assistance. Critical moments of aide can be lost to a search if trouble comes. When we saw this app a year or so ago, it was almost a no-brainer. We don’t use it despite our trust in each other, we use it because of our trust in each other.

I look at the app from time to time, usually when I get the audible signal that she has left the house, mostly out of habit. I don’t question where she goes. I don’t need to. I don’t want to. If I did, though, I could. And, so could she.

While we both have a right and expectation of personal privacy, we have a responsibility to transparency. At first, we both had brief concerns about the use of the app. Neither of us wanted the other to think he/she needed to “checkup” on the other. It wasn’t my privacy I worried about. It was hers. Once we realized that neither of us was concerned about our own personal behavior, we felt free to use the tool. It gives another layer of peace and security for both of us; not necessarily the use of it, but just having it available.

There is something very personally liberating about knowing that your relationship with another is such that no or few mental walls are necessary. Time and proximity usually build a bond that allows for the intimacy of trust. The more you know someone in a positive relationship, the less privacy is an issue, and the relationship becomes more transparent. Lives are not pristine and clean. Acceptance and trust come with time and familiarity.

And, so it is with any relationship. Spouses. Family. Friends. Coworkers. Tribal leaders. What is the key to gaining the trust of another? I think I know, but just to be on the safe side, I “googled” it. Number 1 on the guidance scale from www.pickthebrain.com is transparency.  Number 3 on the scale from www.familyshare.com is “Be an Open Book” (i.e., transparency). Number 18 on the scale from www.boston.dalecarnegie.com is transparency.

Transparency is a pretty important element in the success of a relationship, business, or government. And, I hear the homage given to transparency when public speakers speak. “I am an open book,” “I have an open-door policy,” “I believe the people have a right to know what we are doing.”

In the past three tribal election cycles and in numerous local, state and federal elections, transparency has been at the top of the constituency’s wish list and the most assured platform plank of most politicians.

With all this rhetoric about everyone understanding the want and need for it, you would assume that we could play a good game of cards because all the cards would be on the table. Right?

“A lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity,” states the Dalai Lama.

Denise Morrison, CEO of the Campbell Soup Company, said, “The single most important ingredient in the recipe for success is transparency because transparency builds trust.”

Steven Sinofsky, former President of the Windows Division of Microsoft, says, “Things will absolutely go wrong. In a healthy team, as soon as things go wrong, that information should be surfaced. Trying to hide or obscure bad news creates an environment of distrust or lack of transparency.”

Grace Poe, Filipino senator, and businesswoman, stated, “I believe that transparency is the solution to our problem of corruption.”

Esther Dyson, American journalist, author, and entrepreneur, noted, “What I’m thinking about more and more these days is simply the importance of transparency, and Jefferson’s saying that he’d rather have a free press without a government than a government without a free press.”

Beware of people who say they are keeping you “in the dark” for your own good. Whether in a personal relationship, business negotiation, or interaction with government, the less you know, the more power someone has over you. While it seems easy and safe to let someone else take the wheel, you are putting your life and future in the hands of another. In those cases when you must let someone else make decisions for you, have you checked their track record in making those types of decisions? Has the person you have entrusted to make those decisions proven to you through relationship or document, that he/she is worthy of your trust, or does the open book suddenly slam shut when you really start reading (between the lines)?

Check and verify. The reason the wife and I do not have to worry about checking on each other is that we have, over three decades, built a relationship of trust. I don’t have to wonder where she is or what she is doing because we have a history of knowing all of that. And, while there is an app for that and we use it, it is not for maintaining trust. It is because of the trust we are comfortable in allowing that level of intimacy and access. Transparency over the years has allowed us to have a high level of trust, and less need for privacy.

Whether the relationship is personal or political, the level of transparency will dictate the level of trust. To gain trust, I will sometimes give up or suspend my right to privacy. In relationships, especially political relationships, we must weigh the cost of hanging on to privacy. Some things may and should remain private. But, those things that will affect another individual, groups, or communities must be included in the open book. Decisions made for the people must be made by the people.

In the writings of C.S. Lewis, he used the adage “two heads are better than one”.

His complete quote goes like this, “Two heads are better than one, not because either is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction.”