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Webistemology
Thursday, January 06, 2005
  Right to know vs. Privacy

According to Media Scout, "...the perennial media debate of the right to privacy versus the right to know has been reignited" by whether or not to produce lists of Canadians thought to be dead or missing due to the tsunami of Dec. 26th.

This is one of those issues that will never be settled by the recitation of anecdotes or experiences. People who grieve based on a name on the list, only to find out that the person survived may well be incensed. On the other hand, people who do lose loved ones could be just as incensed by the publication of their relatives name as an invasion of privacy. On balance, I think Ottawa has done the right thing in not publishing a list that is partially speculative, and will definitely include the names of people that have survived. I don't doubt that as bodies are identified, then next of kin are notified, so that nobody is in suspense in the case of a confirmed fatality. Therefore the publication of a list serves only to serve the needs of the curious and the morbid.


There is no doubt that there is a public "right to know", but this should apply to items that belong in the public sphere, and the private tragedies of the families and friends of people who may have lost their lives in the South Asian disaster do not belong there.

 


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