Expecting privacy in public is like expecting hot water to be cold

Originally posted at

About a month ago I saw a broadcast on Fox News about movie theaters planning to install video surveillance in their theaters. The aim is to cut down on pirates who are filming the movies in the theater, but the airing took a different view of it. Judge Andrew Napolitano was discussing this as an invasion of privacy, which is just stupid.

Unless you are out of your mind, you should not expect privacy when you’re in a public area. To do so is asinine and defies the laws of physics. You can not be private in public. To help further this nonsense, he goes on to explain that:

“People view a darkened movie theater as not a license to do that which is illegal but as a place of general privacy. You’re frequently with someone that you are close to. You’re not accustomed to being watched at that time. Somebody will be watched at a perfectly innocent but normal set of behavior, the government will get their hands on it, it will be the tip of an iceberg and maybe then people will wake up. Either we want privacy or we don’t. If we want privacy we have to stop this.”

So let’s look at this for a moment. People don’t go into a dark theater for privacy. The darkness makes the screen the main focus. It’s easier to pay attention to the movie with the room dark. It’s the same reason I turn the light off in my house when I’m watching a movie. It has nothing to do with privacy. I’m not trying to become more private in my already private house. No matter who you’re with or how dark the room is, you can not feel private in a room with 40 other people you don’t know who are all laughing, farting, burping, cracking jokes, answering cell phone calls, and screaming at frightening scenes. Maybe I have another definition of what privacy is–or Judge Napolitano happens to live in a theater.

Clearly a movie theater is where privacy can be expectedAlso, using the stretch that the government will ahold of random footage of you picking your nose during Shrek 12 sounds like they’ll somehow decide you are an international drug lord for such an action. If that was the case, you would have been in jail a long time ago. This is simply a scare tactic to make you think something like laughing at one time or another might flag you as a potential threat.

What about retail stores. Gas stations, chain stores, shopping malls, restaurants, and nearly every other location that deals with the public has security cameras. If movie theaters can be accused of violating privacy by recording its patrons, so can these locations. Walmart is doing this at a ridiculous rate with the dozens of black domes hanging from their ceilings. Expecting privacy in public locations does not make any sense at all, and trying to penalize a business for trying to protect itself from credible threats is simply dumb.

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