Today the issue of privacy came up in a couple of different contexts.
The first was when a deaf individual raised the question for discussion in a Facebook group as to whether they were right to be upset that one neighbour had shared the fact that they were deaf with another neighbour. The answers varied but overwhelmingly people tended to feel that they had no right to be upset.
Why? Why is it that our health and medical conditions are fair game for others to discuss?
I understand the arguments given, the most common being that it probably wasn’t intended as anything other than in their best interest. However, why does that rationale give anybody the right to share personal information about another? Shouldn’t the individual have the right to decide if they want all, or some, or none, of their neighbours to know that they’re deaf?
As a deaf person myself I haven’t informed all my neighbours that I’m deaf. The ones that I know personally are aware because we’ve had a conversation. Others don’t. They don’t need to know, as far as I’m concerned. In the event of an emergency I am registered as deaf with our local vulnerable persons registry and I have notices on all my external doors notifying people of my severe, life-threatening allergies, my use of a Service Dog, that I’m deaf and that I also have a pet dog in the home.
The second context is one that I’ve mentioned in passing before. For some reason, some members of my family feel that my health concerns can be shared with anybody they feel like, including complete strangers. As a result, I am somewhat cautious in how much I share with these individuals but for the most part, having made it explicit on several occasions that I expect them to respect my privacy regarding my health and medical conditions, I do share what’s happening in my life in terms of current tests, appointments and possible diagnoses and prognoses.
Unfortunately, today one of them decided to share all that they knew with another member of my family with whom that information had specifically not been shared. The information hadn’t been shared as the person concerned is a minor and tends to catastrophize things and as a result, it had been agreed that it wasn’t in their best interests to keep them fully informed at this time. Now I have the situation where I don’t know exactly what the minor has been told, but knowing both individuals concerned know that it is likely that the entire situation has been spun to the point that I’m no near death! I also can’t contact the minor to address the situation due to my not being able to use a telephone and
Now I have the situation where I don’t know exactly what the minor has been told, but knowing both individuals concerned know that it is likely that the entire situation has been spun to the point that I’m now near death! I also can’t contact the minor to address the situation due to my not being able to use a telephone and they do not currently have access to text messages or email.
It’s quite a mess.
When I was upset with the individual who shared the information, they saw nothing wrong with what they had done. As far as they were concerned, they had been asked a question and as “they won’t lie” had simply responded with everything that they knew; which included their own interpretation and catastrophization.
Since when did my personal, private medical information become something that could be shared just because somebody asked?
So now I have the situation where the only choice I have left is to not share any of my information with these individuals. They can’t respect my request to keep my information private; in fact, they don’t even see a problem with not respecting my request.
So I don’t see that I have any other option.
This situation reminded me of the quote that states that the only way two people can keep a secret is if one of them is dead.
Is it really the case that we can no longer have any expectation of privacy unless we choose to not share anything with anybody?
I choose to share some of my information on the Internet, in the form of this Blog, or in my online presence. However, I’m also very careful as to what I make public. Even in this Blog, I have been careful to respect the privacy of those family members that have been at the centre of today’s situation.
I do the same in my real life such that I do keep a lot of things to myself. I’m inherently an introvert so it comes naturally to me. However, over the years I have found that relationships depend on shared information. That the people who care about you need you to share some intimate details of your life with them and that they need to do the same with you.
However, over the years I have found that relationships depend on shared information. That the people who care about you need you to share some intimate details of your life with them and that they need to do the same with you.
That this is part of the risk in relationships. That when you share you make yourself vulnerable to being hurt; especially, in intimate partner relationships. For when those relationships fail, or the individuals concerned don’t respect our boundaries and our personal privacy requirements we get badly hurt. The fall-out for me from today’s events will be
The fall-out for me from today’s events will be long-lasting and far-reaching. My trust in those concerned has been broken and, on this occasion, I’m not sure that I’m willing to let it go, as this is by no means the first time.
So, to answer my own question, yes I do think that an expectation of privacy is still realistic.
I think that people need to respect each other’s boundaries and expectations.
That we need to understand that just because we’re privileged to know something about another doesn’t make it alright for us to share that information as we see fit.
That when others choose to share information about themselves, that’s their choice and even if they ‘ve done so publicly (such as in a Blog or on Facebook), that still doesn’t make it OK for others to pass it on indiscriminately.
Have I learned a hard lesson today – yes, I have.
I will be much more careful about what I share with whom, even more so than I was before.
Ironically, those concerned felt that I didn’t share much, to begin with. It will be interesting to see how they react now that the spigot of information has been turned off.
I do have the right to expect privacy.
I do have the right to expect that those I share information with, especially my medical information, will respect my boundaries. Especially, when I have clearly stated them on more than one occasion.
I do have the obligation to be careful what I share with whom.
At the end of the day, if I truly want something to be private I will have to remember that there is nothing wrong with having a private life; it’s when people have secret lives that trouble ensues and I’ve never been good enough at lying to do that!