The British press has been involved in a sickening exercise of collective leering and sneering prompted by the conviction of 26-year-old teacher Helen Goddard for having an affair with a 15 year-old female student;  if you have a strong stomach, take a trip down Daily-Mail-land, the same paragon of women’s rights that informs us that women are twice as likely as men to ask someone to park for them, but I digress. I do not have strong opinions about the case, but I will just point out that in my native Costa Rica Ms Goddard would not have committed a crime.

Regardless one’s views on the moral issues raised by this case, what has struck me is the increasing importance of electronic evidence in documenting everything we do. Text messages sent by the couple were vital in producing enough proof of the sexual nature of the affair to warrant a conviction. The fact that electronic evidence has become important to the legal profession is not at all new. What seems to be emerging however is a picture of a world where everything is being constantly recorded all the time, and we are constantly leaving a trail of electronic breadcrumbs that chart our daily lives. From CCTV to SMS texting, from loyalty cards to social networking, is there any room for a private space?

I was arguing about this very point in the context of Gikii, where some of the privacy issues were raised. We have become used to information being put out about us online, or to have records of our actions everywhere. My own take on the loss of privacy is to clutter the stream and create an electronic cloud around me, sort of fighting fire with fire. If we have no privacy, then why not determine what is out there ourselves? You could try to be private and hide, but that is no longer an option. Perhaps the only manner of being private is to be very public.

Categories: Privacy



JennaMcWilliams · September 23, 2009 at 7:09 am

What makes me mad–smoking, steaming, boiling mad–is how the article you link to makes a point of sexualizing this woman in a male-fantasy kind of way. If our culture is going to argue that lesbian affairs between teachers and students are JUST AS HEINOUS!!! (they exclaimed, shrilly) as those between opposite-sex teachers and students, then this news should be reported in the same, "look at what a craven predator she looks like in this picture" way. I give you…

OR if we're going to argue that this issue is more complex than the media like to make it out to be, then news accounts should reflect that.

Should, should, should. If shoulds were ad dollars, newspapers would thrive.


Lilian Edwards · September 23, 2009 at 4:03 pm

Yeh, the doctrine of privacy by obscurity beaten out by open scrutiny but with lots of distracting noise — you're an open source guy, I can see why this appeals 🙂 But I doubt you can convince Judith or even possibly me – for all I talk online, my important stuff is fairly thoroughly locked down..

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